Sunday, December 09, 2007
A rather long tale from the eastern shires which discusses human rights violations and bollards.
At the rear of my house there is a nice car park. It's a private car park for the use of residents and their guests. In days of yore it was often full but these days there are a couple of empty spaces as two of the five houses do not own a car. To the back of the car park is a public footpath which runs behind the old bridewell. Vehicle access is gained from the road about fifty metres away. All said it's a very nice litlle spot, well, for a car park. The sun shines in from the south west on an afternoon and it's fairly clean, the old bridewell dates from the 1700's and is a good looking redbrick fascade which lends a slightly more urban symmetry to the small town environment.
Right, so you're aware of the location? And you're not asleep yet?
I'll go on.
There was a spot of wierdness recently about other people using the car park and at one point some notes were left on the windscreens of non residents but this has never bothered me, nobody has ever used my spot so why get involved. This wierdness passed and since then I have used the car park with no hindrance of any kind.
Last week bollards were erected across the entrance to the car park.
A bloke came to our door , gave Frau Random Doubt a couple of keys and went away.
She didn't even know what a bollard was. You can't see them from our house, they are just around the corner of the dog leg access road. Like I said, no bother with parking of any kind.
For some reason the erection of bollards across my legal right of way caused the mighty fury to rise up and take possession of my soul. The reasons for my fury were fifteenfold. At least.
I. It restricted my legal right of access to my home. OK, not exactly, you can of course still get in the front way but I park my car at the back.
II. It's a massive inconvienience. getting out of the car twice every time I want to go anywhere.
III. What about when it rains?
IV. I never asked for these bollards.
V. Who put them up?
VI. Who controls them?
VII. Who controls the keys and the locks?
VIII. How do I complain about them and to whom do I complain about them?
IX. Was it a neighbour?
X. Which neighbour would have had the time, money, inclination to raise a barrier to my right of way?
XI. If I start a great big neighbourhood feud/war type thing won't it be a bit embarrassing at Mrs Lucas's Christmas drinks and nibbles party on the 27th of December?
XII. Surely I can't wait untill after the 27th to begin my neighborhood feud/war type thing?
XIII. If I engage with the bollards am I accepting their existence and thereby giving them credibilty, thus undermining my vengeful wrath.
XIV. If I boycott the bollards how will I ever leave my home again?
By this time I was feeling a little bit nipped to say the least.
I was a little bit Sir Edward Carson ("Ulster will fight and Ulster wil be right!"), I was a little bit Sir Winston Churchill (" An Iron curtain"), A little bit Ronald Reagan (" Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!").
Before confronting any of the nine or ten potential suspects I decided to enquire at the local council. They must know something.
I began at the top, calling the County council. They knew nothing about any bollards being erected in that location (Tory bastards).
I tried the district council, they brushed me off almost immediately and passed me back to County level(I think they are Tory bastards too but I'm not sure, possibly Lib Dem misguided fools). I had another great conversation with a nice man who advised me to "build a case and find out all the facts before I confront anyone".
I continued by calling my sister's father in law, a former mayor of hometown who told me to check in with the town council, I could even attend the town council meeting that very night, it's open to the public. Oh, that would be nice but I've got a ticket for the footy tonight and I don't get to go that often so the bollards will have to wait. He sort of exhaled and gave me the impression that the bollards can't really be that important if you are off the watch city. He was probably right. I then spoke to the clerk of the town coucil, a nice man called Trevor. He informed me that the town council had no knowledge of any bollards in that location ( I would call them Tory bastards because that's what they are but I know most of them and they do a pretty good job and are quite a nice bunch, if a bit uptight about young people and fun and stuff).
Still, my fundamental rights of access to the rear of my property are being infringed!
This leaves me with a sinking feeling, plus the fact that the vengeful fury is still there too.
If the three tiers of local government have no knowledge of the bollards , it has to be a neighbour. A really, really uptight neighbour. A really, really uptight neighbour with enough money and time and inclination to erect bollards across my legal right of way, thus restricting it and causing me to get out of my car twice, sometimes in the rain, in order to raise and lower the bollards.
I must confront this erector of bollards and condemn them. I am so right. I am turning from vengeful fury to righteous wrath.
I have never been so right about anything.
The bollards must go!
I shall lead my people in the cause!
But what if it gets a bit awkward at Mrs Lucas's drinks and nibbles party on the 27th?
No Bother, did a spot of potential social awkwardness prevent the Dr. Martin Luther King from walking the bridge at Selma?
Did a disquieting sense of social unease upset Nelson Mandela before he strode out of prison in 1990? Was Mrs Thatcher concerned about the impression it might create at the Argentine embassy cocktail lunch in 1982?
In order to pursue this properly I must find out who owns this land. They will be my number one suspect.
I have by this point aquired an ally in my struggle.
A semi retired gentleman who likes nothing more than phoning our elected officals and asking them questions about bollards. I would have done this myself but I was teaching all day and also stoking my righteous anger and thinking of the court battles to follow
" Your honour, I will now point to article 234.4, subsection F of the Norfolk County Council Highways act 1956...."
I would swish about the courtroom, making the jury weep with pity for my predicament before delivering justice.
I went through my legal papers, deeds of ownership, even a note from my solicitor about my LEGAL RIGHTS OF ACCESS TO THE REAR OF MY PROPERTY!
My human rights were being harassed, My civil rights were being squashed. Who controls the bollards? Am I being watched? Could an anonymous, unelected neighbour lock me in my own home?
This was like what Hitler did to Czechoslovakia.
I was gearing up for the long struggle ahead.
Then my dad called.
"Hello son, it seems that the County council erected the bollards following a series of complaints from residents about illegal parking. The County council undertook a consultation process with the residents and following the views expressed in the aforementioned consultation process the bollards were erected at the top of your dog legged access road".
(He doesn't actually talk like that).
It was the County council after all.
But why had they denied all knowledge?
It seems that I had spoken to the wrong department, I should have spoken to the highways department, I was talking to the rights of way department.
So that was that, I was beaten. My vengeful wrath and righteous fury evaporated.
It seems that while I was away in the US of Stateside a legal and slightly thorough process of complaint and consultation took place. There had been a problem and the elected authorities did something about it. Democracy in action.
Thank god, I can attend Mrs Lucas's drinks and nibbles party on the 27th with an easy heart, gather in her kitchen with other nieghbours and talk about our kids and running and stuff.
But whilst I'm happy that the bollards are legitimate, that they were erected by a democratically elected council, that I can complain about them if I wish, that I have a reference number to quote in all communications with the council and that I won't have to start an all out neighbourhood war, I am still baffled by the heavy handed response to a few dodgy parkers and the simple fact that I need to get in and out of my car twice every time I want to go anywhere.
On Friday morning somebody had crashed into one of the new bollards. I felt a bit bad for whoever had just wrecked their bumper but quietly happy about this possible act of sabotage. The council fixed it that morning.
On Saturday afternoon I asked a friend to get out and unlock the bloody bollard so I could get the bloody car through in order to park in my bloody space at the back of my bloody house (it was raining as well).
He gets out, has a look and says " I reckon you could drive through there".
He was bloody right.
My small yet perfectly formed french motor can squeeze through the gap between two of the bollards without unlocking any of them! I never need to get out of my car!
We drove down to the house singing lines from 'Fight The Power' by Public Enemy.
I now have no problem with the stupid bollards at all.
I am calm again.
I am mostly delighted that an unpleasant and costly neighbourhod war type thing has been averted, and that I have not turned into a ranting Basil Fawlty earlier than is inevitable.
I have also just realised that I now live in a gated community, sort of.