Fire at Queen of Hearts Pub In Bucknall Started Deliberately

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service have revealed the fire at the old Queen of Hearts pub in Bucknall  was started deliberately.

Crews were alerted to the blaze  just after 8.00am this morning and appliances from Hanley, Longton, Newcastle and Sandyford were sent to it. The aerial ladder platform from Longton and control unit from Stone were also requested to attend to help deal with the incident.

Station Manager, Glynn Luznyj said

The pub has not been used for some time and was secured with steel shutters. We had to use our hydraulic cutting equipment to gain entry so that firefighters could get in with the necessary equipment to start tackling the fire. It appears that fires were set on the ground and first floor which spread throughout the building. Three main jets and a hose role jet were used to tackle the main fire whilst the aerial ladder platform doused the flames from above. A fire investigation has established that the fire was deliberately started and the police have been informed. Whoever started this fire obviously didn’t think about the lives they endangered, including their own. Disused buildings are sealed off for a reason – because they’re potentially dangerous. Starting fires deliberately is an incredibly stupid thing to do and meant that five fire crews were tied up for over three hours. Luckily, no other incidents happened nearby at the same time, otherwise our response could have been delayed.

Fire crews remained at the incident yesterdayafternoon damping down.

Anyone with any info, should contact the police non- emergency number 101 and quote incident number 237 of 5th December or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Fire At Queen of Hearts Public House Bucknall

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service are reporting that around 30 firefighters are tackling a fire at the disused Queen of Hearts public house on Lillydale Road in Bucknall.

Crews from Hanley, Longton, Newcastle and Sandyford are in attendance as well as the aerial ladder platform from Longton and the control unit from Stone.

Three mains jets and a hose reel jet are currently in use to tackle the fire. The gas and electricity board have also been requested to attend to isolate the utilities.

Public Questions About City Farm At Next Weeks Full Council Meeting

After the Pits n Pots investigation in to the City Farm Tender earlier this year, which caused the suspension of the tendering process by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, there are still a number of unanswered questions.

Two of which are going to be asked at Thursdays Full Council meeting by John Taylor on behalf of Friends of Bucknall Park City Farm.

Question 4 TENDER ARRANGEMENTS FOR BUCKNALL PARK CITY FARM – From Mr John Taylor on behalf of Friends of Bucknall Park City Farm, addressed to the Cabinet Member for City Services (Councillor Janine Bridges):-

On 21 January 2011 the tender process seeking expressions of interest for the City Farm site was suspended and bidders were told:

‘We are reviewing our approach to the procurement and for a temporary period this has been suspended. A further communication will be sent to you shortly. Thank you for your interest in the City Farm and your patience while we review our approach.’

Is this procurement process now abandoned? If yes please say who took the decision and the date thereof and what bidders were told and the date thereof.

And

Question 5 FUTURE OF BUCKNALL PARK CITY FARM – From Mr John Taylor, on behalf of Friends of Bucknall Park City Farm, Stoke on Trent addressed to the the Cabinet Member for City Services (Councillor Janine Bridges):-

When City Farm closed we were told; The City Council remains committed to finding a new operator for a similar venture for the future.  Is this commitment now binned? If yes please say who took the decision and the date thereof and outline the alternative uses now being considered for the site. If no please outline plans for procurement in terms of specification, lease and timing.

I’m sure there will be many people who will be waiting to see what the answers to these questions are after almost 11 months.

City Farm equipment to be donated to care farm

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is to donate equipment to a local care farm that helps vulnerable groups including those with learning difficulties, disabilities and mental health issues.

The equipment, which was used by the former City Farm in Bucknall, will be given to Sherrats Wood Farm, Middleton Green, Leigh to help them deliver a range of therapeutic and educational activities involving animals and horticulture.

The equipment has been in storage since the farm closed in March 2011, when all the animals were re-homed to other farms in the area.

We have been approached by one of the farms that provided the animals with a new home when the City Farm closed earlier this year.

The equipment could be put to better use somewhere that can be dedicated towards industrial and educational farming, so that’s why we have decided to donate it to Sherrats Wood Farm.

Following a disastrous tendering process, highlighted by Pits n Pots, Stoke-on-Trent City Council closed the City Farm in March. Now the council are again considering becoming land speculators and looking to acquire the land within the farm site not currently in its ownership, and examine future uses for the area.

We have to be clear that the farm is no longer in existence as a city council run service. Anyone looking to take over the site as a farm would need to have the relevant expertise and funding in place to run it on a commercial basis.

If no one can come forward and put a realistic case together, then we would have to look at how best the land could be used by the city council.
“Incorporating the former farm site into the wider Bucknall Park area as public open space is the immediate solution while we examine its future uses and any offers that may come from the private sector.

City Farm: A Tale of Council Failure

If Stoke-on-Trent City Farm in Bucknall had been an animal, the RSPCA would have turned up long ago, taken it into care, and prosecuted its owner for cruelty and neglect.

Don’t get me wrong, the staff at the farm have been excellent, both in looking after the animals and welcoming visitors to the facility. Thousands upon thousands of children, parents and grandparents have enjoyed this popular visitor attraction over many, many years.

In the summer of 2010 a national newspaper, The Guardian, placed it in their top 10 places to visit with children, describing it as a “gem”. Here what it had to say:


Poor old Stoke does not get into many top tens but in their city farm they have a real treasure. Tucked into the south-east corner of Bucknall Park, the farm is home to llamas, kune kune pigs, chipmunks and a glorious sweep of domestic fauna. There’s also a sensory garden to thrill and tantalise all five senses. For afters, Bucknall Park has a children’s playground and, in the summer, a cafe too.

The Council Leader, Pervez, would have us believe that its closure is down to the governments severe cuts in finance. Anybody that has observed or been involved in recent years with the City Farm will know that its demise is at best a case of indifferent carelessness, or at worst a deliberate, lengthy painful cull ““ starved until it could survive no more.

Regeneration has been a top priority within Stoke-on-Trent with varying degrees of success and failure. However, this obsession with regeneration must not blind us nor lead us to neglect the treasures we already possess.

Take a good look around our neighborhoods, our towns and our City. Long gone is that smokey, choking caldron of industry. In its place greenery, open spaces and our majestic plethora of Victorian Parks. Shouldn’t this be at the very core of our regeneration efforts, instead of being seen as an expensive and not needed luxury?

Far too much of the momentum for regeneration in Stoke-on-Trent is based on “demolish the past ““ build the new”. Surely good sustainable regeneration is about taking what best from the past and putting it to a sustainable, modern, relevant purpose.

In early 2008 City Farm was threatened with Closure ““ the Save Dimensions campaign was gaining strength.

A Friends of the Farm group was set up ““ a new one every year since ““ and the ward councillors paid for a consultants report to establish a sunstainable way forward for the City Farm.

In 2008 £10k from the ward budget of Cllr Adrian Knapper, Rita Dale and John Davis employed consultants from the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens to come up with recommendations aimed at keeping the facility open, enhancing it and making it a viable sustainable enterprise.

Yet this expensive and valuable report went nowhere.

Two draft reports meant for Mark Meredith’s EMB, with current Cabinet member Debra Gratton’s name on them, were blocked and never saw the light of day. The ward councillors appear to have forgotten about the report.

In essence, City Farm should have and could have been put on the road to self sustainability, and keep well out of the way of this year’s unfortunate cuts.

Instead it has now closed.

Our strategic management of this park and farm appears to have been non-existent ““ the only thing they have tried to do from an officer perspective is either close it or move it.

City Farm is not closing because of the Coalition Government cuts. It is not closing because the council has got to make savings. It is not closing because of lack of visitors or poor staffing.

It is closing because Council management have wanted it shut for years, and the three ward councillors FAILED to follow up on their initial investment of £10,000 on a consultants report. Public they spent and then wasted.

Pervez and many of his Cabinet were in senior positions in 2008 and since that should have and could have preserved the City Farm ““ so stop blaming the Coalition Government.

For me the blame clearly lies with the three ward councillors ““ Knapper, Dale, J. Davis ““ Pervez (Deputy Elected Mayor in 2008) and Debra Gratton.

Two Village Green Public Enquiries

On Tuesday 1st February 2011, the Registration of Town and Village Greens Panel of Stoke-on-Trent City Council met, for the first time since July 2007, to consider two village green applications, one at Hulme Road, Park Hall and the other at Anchor Road, Adderley Green.

An application for village green status had been submitted in both cases following council plans to site the Discovery Academy there. Not only did the communities not want a school sited in these locations, they also realized that open green space they had perhaps taken for granted for ongoing community use could be built upon and they wanted to protect it. Margaret Lowe for the Community Schools Action Group applied for Village Green Status for the Park Hall land and Ian Jenkin for the Adderley Green Residents Association applied for Village Green status for the Adderley Green land.

Both applicants attended to observe proceedings at the meeting, although they could not attend the first hour during which panel members were being briefed. Paul Hackney, the legal officer, recommended public enquiries on the basis that the council was the land owner and the decision maker and there were other legal complexities. All panel members supported the recommendation and confirmed with Margaret Lowe and Ian Jenkin that they did too. Ian asked about the financial implications, since an application for Penkhull had been withdrawn for fear of cost liability. However the committee stated that costs would be borne by the council and would be £10,000 for both applications, not each as reported in the Sentinel.

Margaret told the Sentinel afterwards that if a member of the public had objected to village green status the objection would have been thrown out and a decision made there and then, saving costs. But as the council had objected this was their way of being ‘open and transparent’, but also trying to get the public on their side by stating the use of public money.

Ian told the Sentinel that as the council are owners of the land, objectors to the application and have to make a decision on it, there was only really one decision they could have made. However he was pleased about this.

Paul Hackney and the panel chair Joy Garner will appoint an independent inspector. We could hear more about this in May. Following the public enquiry the inspector will make a recommendation to the council that they may be expected to adopt, although they do not have to. If village green status is obtained there would be total removal of any possible development, securing the open space for the community.

Minimum £250,000 Investment Required For City Farm Tender

As part of the budget cuts and cost savings being implemented by Stoke-on-Trent City Council the City Farm at Bucknall Park is being put out to tender.

The City Farm which was quoted in

Poor old Stoke does not get into many top tens but in their city farm they have a real treasure. Tucked into the south-east corner of Bucknall Park, the farm is home to llamas, kune kune pigs, chipmunks and a glorious sweep of domestic fauna. There’s also a sensory garden to thrill and tantalise all five senses. For afters, Bucknall Park has a children’s playground and, in the summer, a cafe too

seems doomed to close as part of the deep cost savings being made by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

According to the tender document pack, (which is one of the worst compiled packs of documents I have set eyes upon in a long time), the City Farm costs £178,519.24 to run in the 2010/11 financial year while. A majority of this cost is salaries for the 5 staff. The park does apparently generate a small income of just under £4000 this is in the form of donations of £2000 and sales of livestock, animal feed & bedding.

The tender is for 5 years with an option to extend to 7 years, although the Deed Of Agreement supplied in the tender pack, gives details of a 3 year contract to lease buildings at Carmountside Cemetery.

As well as the £178,500 annual running costs, anyone wishing to tender to run the City Farm will need to cover the costs of:

Repairs totalling £219,200
£34700 Stable Block
£12,000 Farm Lodge
£750 New Stable Block
£750 Toilets
£150,000 Bridge*

*Initially the tender document quotes £150,000 for repairs to the bridge, however Annex 12 of the document gives a breakdown of costs estimates for repairs to the bridge totalling £171,000

Infrastructure

In addition to the issues concerning the bridge over the River Trent, most of the Farm’s existing timber fencing around and between enclosures is in a poor condition and needs replacing. In addition, the Farm does not have a completely secure perimeter fence, potentially leaving it vulnerable to vandalism and theft.

The majority of footpaths around the Farm are in poor condition and require significant resurfacing work to make them safe and / or suitable for people with disabilities.

If there was any further selling point needed for this business venture, the following paragraphs sum it up nicely.

The River Trent runs through the south west side of the park, forming a boundary between park and farm for some of its length. Unsurprisingly much of the park is low lying, particularly the southern half, and there are associated drainage issues. The Farm has little in the way of installed land drains, the only form of drainage being soa-kaways[sic]. Consequently this frequently leads to problems with surface water pooling and some paddocks and fields becoming waterlogged.

So a minimum investment of around £250,000 is required for the leasehold of the City Farm, although,

Recent consultation with visitors to Bucknall Park has confirmed: 75% of existing visitors are prepared to pay an entrance fee, no one was prepared to pay more than £2.50 for a family, the average an individual was prepared to pay was 50p, 62% travel to the the farm by car, 66% only stay between 30 mins to 90 mins, 59% of visitors to Bucknall park do not visit the farm they visit the playground area or walk their dogs. From the above it would be difficult to charge the necessary entrance fee that would put the farm in a break even position. To breakeven would require the current estimated number of visitors (89,600) each to pay £2 every visit, every time, irrespective of age or ability. If we take out children & OAPs the fee is more likely to be £6 for every adult for every visit in order to breakeven. As most visitors travel by car there are existing facilities within a 30 minute drive: Blackbrook Zoo, Amerton Farm and Shugborough Park Farm. These facilities are– all excellent and Amerton farm is free. In order to compete or to implement an entrance fee providing value for money would require a minimum capital investment of circa £740k.

Return On Your Investment

So how do you get a return on your investment and cover the annual running costs of £178,500?

The farm is required to be open every day of the year apart from Christmas, Boxing & New Years days, so 362 days. On each one of these days you would need to take £493.14 just to pay the staff and keep the farm open before you start getting any return on your investment of between £250,000 & £740,000.

Admission Fees

According to the information in the tender document, the city council carried out a survey of visitors between June & September 2010, the figures are

for guidance purpose only and no guarantees can be given regarding the accuracy of the information supplied.

In the 88 days of the visitor numbers being counted (9 July – 4 October) there were 34,700 visitors to the City Farm or an average of 395 per day. This is somewhat higher than the previously quoted average annual visitor figures are 89.600 or 248 per day.

It is worth noting that school visits to the farm are free of charge and almost certainly there will have been school visits included in the count of visitor numbers.

Any charging policy you implement as part of the tender need to be affordable to all groups and is one of the evaluation criteria that tenders are scored on.

Farm Cafe

There is a café operating in the grounds of the park (refer Annex 4) that is not included in this tender. It is understood the café operator does not have exclusive selling rights in the Park but this would need to be verified by the Operator prior to undertaking any similar operations.

So you could sell refreshments but nobody is really sure.

If you are interested in taking the farm on as a going concern you need to get your skates on the tender closes on 28 January 2011, so not long to get your business plan together.

Tender to be advertised for Stoke-on-Trent’s City Farm

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is to invite groups to express an interest in running the City Farm.

The tender for the running of the facility will be advertised through the local media on 7 January 2011. The proposed period is for five years beginning early in 2011.

Anyone wishing to tender for the contract should go to www.wmcoe.bravosolution.co.uk and register for project number 18003, ITT reference 29044.

Closing date for submissions is 2pm Friday 28 January 2011.

Within the city council’s budget setting process, the City Farm is proposed to close unless an alternative source of funding could be found.

“We understand that this is an emotive subject for many people ““ but we need to take some prudent steps to put in place a back-up plan should the budget proposal be approved in February. Identifying interested groups is key in this so we need to advertise the tender. To wait until after 24 February when a decision is made would leave no time to source alternative funding options.

“But I must stress no decision has yet been made on the budget these are still proposals.”

Sign Up And Adopt Animal Down At The City Farm In Stoke-on-Trent

Berryhill & Hanley East Ward City Councillor Adrian Knapper has adopted Chicco and Pirate the llamas at the City Farm, Bucknall.

Under a new scheme that as been introduced, visitors to this much loved popular attraction can now sign up to adopt an animal that will help feed and care them.

Over the last 3 months, the City Farm had over 28,000+ visitors, yet nothing has been charged to gain admission.

“In times of the Government making cuts in public expenditure. It’s important that members of the public realise the cost of running this family facilities like the City Farm.”

“I am trying my best, to help this facility to make sure that it remains an enjoyable experience for all, but visitors to this site need to consider giving a little to help support the running cost of the City Farm.”

Members of the public can adopt one of the friendly animals from as little as £5 per year for a Rabbit or up to £30 for the llamas. Adopters receive a certificate; a newsletter twice a year and a special privilege pass that allows the adopter to have personal hands on session with their animal with the assistance of one of the animal keepers. This would make an ideal Christmas or Birthday present.

“If you love the animals down at the City Farm, please help by joining the adopt the animal scheme.”

Alternatively members of the public can also help support the City Farm by joining the active Friends Group who is working to promote and enhance this facility, just pop down and ask the staff for details.

Stoke’s Sexy ‘Calender Girls’ Pose To Help Our Heroes

A group of sexy Stoke-on-Trent ‘Calender Girls’ made the best of their assets to raise funds for the Help for Heroes charity.

The Real Stoke Girls 2011 calendar was launched at the end of Septembers and has already raised in the region of £2750 for the forces charity.

The calender was shot in various locations across the 6 Towns of Stoke-on-Trent including Park Hall, the Etruria Industrial Museum and Kingsland Primary School.

The 65 ‘girls’ who took part ranged from 16 – 80 in age

The calender was promoted and organised by Julie Hancock from Milton:

“I am Julie and in June 2010 I had a dream to try and do something to help our troops.

I have a friend, Fiona, who has 3 sons in the Army and recently lost her husband, only 46, to cancer. At his funeral, Colin had requested everyone donated to “Help for Heroes” instead of giving flowers, this raised thousands of pounds……..What a fantastic idea !!!!

So, I wanted to do my bit too . I asked around and through Facebook if anyone would be interested in doing a local calendar, with a sexy military theme?

Within 48 hours I was inundated with kind offers of photographers, fancy dress, vehicles, props, locations and “models”.. 65 of them, 95% of whom I had never met!

Now …we are talking REAL women – REAL curves, REAL lumps n bumps.
From 16 to 80 years old, some with scars from operations, some who have never even undressed in front of their husbands!
REAL stories. REAL problems – but nothing would stop them from “doing their bit” for the troops.

After six weekends of photo shoots in locations such as the picturesque Park Hall Pine woodlands, Etruria Industrial Museum, The Sentinel Photo Studio & Kingsland primary school, in Bucknall”.

“The cast of the Calender Girls, who recently starred in the show at the Regent Theatre, thought our Calender was great. The all signed a copy for us which was a fantastic gesture”.

The calender can be purchased from the website below and would be great to fill many of the stockings on display in the beautiful images that celebrate the female form. It is priced at just £10.