Maryland is where I grew up. It’s where I went to Primary school, dance school, visited my first Polling Station with my mum, learnt how to ride a bike, its where I played out with friends and its where I played knock down ginger (apologies for that!!). So Maryland has and will always have a special place in my heart and I’m genuinely so grateful that I can represent Maryland as part of Forest Gate North on the Council.
BUT sometimes being so emotionally attached to the area you represent has its low points. For example, just after becoming elected in May I went on a police patrol to learn about the hotspot areas for crime and anti-social behaviour. Although it was pretty cool be cruise around the ward in a police car by the end of the patrol my heart was heavy. (for obvious reasons I can’t reveal all of what I learnt that afternoon) I couldn’t believe the roads I used to play on and houses where my school friends used to live had been taken over by drug users/dealers, prostitution activities and to be honest un-neighbourly people. I was also taken back by the amount of rubbish on the roads and the number of local businesses on Leytonstone High Street that have closed or look a bit run down.
After a while of sulking I made a commitment to myself that by the time my term on the Council was over (May 2018) I would have helped restore a commUNITY in Maryland just like there is in the East side of the ward #ForestGreat. I’m not going to sugar coat it, IT HAS BEEN HARD, at times during the last 18 months, I think it would have been easier to pull out my tooth and hairs on my eyebrows and eyelashes than trying to get residents and local businesses in Maryland to engage with me and the Council! *sighs*. But after a lot of doorknocking and introducing ourselves, mobile Councillor surgeries at Maryland Primary school and Nooks Cafe, Street stalls on the High Rd, joint street stalls with the local police, picking up lots and lots of casework we had a breakthrough! We had our first Maryland residents meeting in the Summer, then we had another one in September which resulted in a new Maryland community litter picking group. A resident kindly offered to design and deliver flyers to inform Marylanders of the next meeting. And numbers began to grow. No longer did residents want to just complain they wanted to do something so I suggested our next meeting should be about the Quietways route and improving the High Street.
I was about 15 minutes late for our October meeting (my previous council meeting over ran) and I walked into a very busy Nooks Cafe. I assumed the 8 people near the Council officer were the only people in Nooks Cafe for our meeting… oh how wrong was I. The packed Nooks Cafe were full of people who wanted to hear more about the Quietway route and help improve the local area. This then sparked a great conversation about regeneration in Leytonstone and how we could work together. One lovely resident gave a short presentation on the history of Maryland point and his ideas for the cross rail consultation.
Last week Friends of Maryland had their first steering group committee meeting at Nooks. Due to the growing number of residents attending the residents meeting (which is fantastic by the way) we thought it would be helpful to have a steering committee of people who want to play leading role. We first looked at the Detailed Site and Policies consultation document and put together some proposals. The deadline is Friday so you have a bit of time if you would like to add your thoughts here.
We then agreed on a few priorities for the Friends of Maryland residents group these are: Flytipping and Littering, Regeneration and Urban Realm and Community Cohesion.
The group have agreed to hold a walkabout to identify hotspot areas but also good spaces for things like planting and maybe a street party. They have already formed a community litter picking group and we as a Community Neighbourhood will do our best to support that.
As part of priority 1 the group are now working on a petition to get Leytonstone High Road on a waste timed collection. Having had several meetings and walkabouts with various Newham council officers from Waste Collection and Enforcement team we all think this is one of the major contributing factors to the significant number of rubbish bags on the High Street which is attracting fly-tipping and litter. So in order for Maryland to be on a waste time collection a growth bid needs to be submitted Executive Member for Infrastructure and Environment but given the cuts to our budget we’ll need to put in a very strong case. I do think in the long run a waste time collection will save the council money so hopefully that + a petition from local residents and businesses will help put forward a convincing argument.
If you live in Maryland and would like to get more involved in the residents group. The next meeting is Tuesday 17th November, 7:30pm at Nooks Cafe where Newham Council Enforcement Officer will be giving a presentation answering any questions.