It’s (work) party time at Aston Lodge

May the force be with you: The Aston Lodge April Work Party

Aston Lodge’s newly formed Residents Association (ALRA) has started holding monthly work parties to weed and clear overgrown vegetation from the estate’s paths and open spaces.

On a chilly Sunday in April, twelve volunteers spent more than two hours clearing leaves, weeds and soil from the pathway between the Mercer Drive post box and the playground. On May 5th, eight residents weeded and cleared the estate’s roundabout. At their May 17th weekday evening work party, 14 volunteers filled more than 50 sacks with weeds, soil and sweepings as they cleared the pavements, gutters and pathways around the entrance to Aston Lodge.

“There is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and energy in our community, “

said ALRA Secretary Rob Townsend. Last March, 75 residents attended ALRA’s first AGM to discuss initiatives for improving the estate’s communal areas and quality of life.

“The outcome was a list of 25 ‘quick win’ actions, some of which we’ve already implemented,” Rob continued. “For example, we phoned Network Rail about the state of the embankment which runs past Aston Lodge. They responded immediately by litter-picking the embankment and removing fly-tipped rubbish.”

Highways have agreed to ALRA’s request for two extra grit boxes. And after their complaint to Royal Mail about the state of the letter box on Aston Lodge Parkway, it got a fresh coat of paint!

“We are picking up the responsibility for the groundforce and maintenance jobs in communal green spaces which the Borough Council used to carry out,”

committee member Lee Mountford comments.

“Budget cuts means that service has gone and we don’t expect it to be reinstated any time soon.” But what the Council can still provide is information, advice and equipment.

“Highways Officer Shane Latham has been tremendously helpful,” Lee continues.

“He has given us an estate map showing its unadopted areas where we’re not allowed to go. He’s kitted us out with hi-viz jackets, cones, litter pickers and bags and given us health and safety advice.”

Making a clean sweep: path clearing at Aston Lodge

At the end of a working party, the rubbish bags are piled up at an agreed collection point for SBC’s Streetscene to remove next day. The Borough’s arboriculturalist is also advising ALRA on the upkeep of the cherry trees on the estate’s approach road.

“Residents prioritised the appearance of the approach road and roundabout,” explained committee member Helen Townsend. “We’ve been asked to submit a planting plan for the roundabout, which we hope to adopt. We’d like to erect a sign there saying ‘Welcome to Aston Lodge’.”

ALRA will also be linking up with Stone in Bloom. ALRA is the legacy of a residents’ group formed in 2017 by Town Councillor Andy Osgathorpe to oppose planning permission to build houses on Blackies Lane, a greenfield site near the estate’s entrance.

“70 of us attended Andy’s meeting where we launched a fund to engage a planning professional to represent our case to the Borough Council,” Rob explained.

“After the application was eventually overturned on environmental grounds, five of us regrouped and altered our aims to continue as a community association for the Aston Lodge Estate.” Said Cllr Osgathorpe:

“Since council budgets are being squeezed by central government, I suggested that a residents’ association could be the way residents have to operate in future if they want to make the best of their local green spaces. Some excellent work is being done by these Aston Lodge Residents. It has all sorts of ‘spin-offs’ for people’s well-being and forges a better sense of community.”

But ALRA intends to be much more than clearing leaves and litter (litter is actually not a big problem on the estate, they say). Their medium-term aims include replacing the playground equipment for older children, reviving its Neighbourhood Watch Scheme and restoring the two newt ponds which were created when the estate was built.

“We’d also like to set up community groups for walking, sports and charity,”

adds Helen.

Thanks to ALRA, she and Rob, who moved to Aston Lodge two and a half years ago, have got to know many of their Aston Lodge neighbours and now feel much more at home.

“Coming together as a committee has helped us make new friends,”

all three agree, before heading off to a meeting in the pub.

For further information email secretary.aston lodge@gmail.com