This is the transcript of an article from Quedgeley People in 2012 – As that site seems to be in decline, I thought publishing it here would be useful as its the first in depth interview I have done.
A desire for good old-fashioned community spirit and caring about the place in which he and his wife Amanda are raising his young family are the driving force behind Barry Kirby.
Originally born and bred in Carlisle, Cumbria, Barry gravitated south several years ago, moving to Worcester initially, then spending two years living in Gloucester city itself. He, Amanda and daughters Eloise (now eight) and Holly (5) moved to Kingsway in 2007, just after those infamous floods, and their family has since grown with the arrival of little brother Leo (3).
Barry is a well-known figure and familiar face in and around the new and ever-growing village of Kingsway, near Quedgeley. His passion for getting the people of Kingsway aware, involved and proud of their community, through all manner of initiatives – from the recent ‘Kingsway – a Village in Bloom’ competition to building a community garden on the area of land behind the primary school – is renowned. If there’s something interesting going on in Kingsway, you can bet that Barry has a hand in it somewhere.
“I discovered after moving here five years ago that the reputation of Kingsway is not very good,” frowns a saddened Barry. “Which I just couldn’t understand. It was so frustrating because there was no correlation between the negative stories I was reading in the press about Kingsway, and what I was seeing when walking around the community. I used to think to myself, ‘Where are all the druggies and the muggings I keep reading about in the paper?’ I often take a walk around Kingsway of an evening and it is usually very quiet. It bears no resemblance to the Kingsway reported on in the local news.
“It was this discrepancy between what I was reading and what I was seeing that spurred my decision to form the residents’ association four-and-a-half years ago. I wanted to draw the community together. At that time there was no communal focal point. The Kingsway Local Centre [which now comprises the Barn Owl pub, Coco Coffee Lounge, Tesco Express, Taylors estate agents, Badham Pharmacy, Kingsway Veterinary Clinic and Ice hair and beauty salon] is all new, and it’s really satisfying to see the community starting to pull together.
“The Local Centre has brought about the biggest change to Kingsway. Having local facilities and amenities, and a point of contact for people, has really gone a long way towards building a sense of community spirit. Now people have somewhere to meet up for a coffee or a beer – something which they didn’t have before – and this has helped develop relations and a feeling of ownership massively.”
This sense of community was certainly very evident when I met Barry at Coco Coffee Lounge – the place was buzzing and a hive of activity. There were a dozen or so mums with their babies, obviously using Coco as a meeting place for a newly-formed mother and baby group – something that couldn’t have happened before the Kingsway Local Centre was built. And a cheery sight for Barry, whose sole ambition is to turn Kingsway into a fully functioning community – not a “faceless housing estate with no community spirit, where nobody knows anybody else”.
“I am really proud of the residents’ association, and all that it has achieved over the past four-and-a-half years,” he smiles. “I am particularly proud of the public meetings which are held every quarter. They are attended by around 60 to 70 residents on average, making Kingsway’s one of the most successful residents’ associations in the area. Mind you, there are more than 2,000 houses here at Kingsway, which equates to roughly 4,000 adults, so even now, we could do a lot more.
“With Kingsway being such a new development, people don’t tend to knock on each others’ doors and introduce themselves when somebody new moves in. They tend to be a lot more insular and don’t make an effort to get to know each other, which is a shame. However, I’m heartened to see the gradual formation of an organic friendship network, particularly now that we have the new shops, the coffee lounge and the Barn Owl pub. A sense of community spirit is starting to develop and hopefully we can keep building on that.”
It was Barry’s efforts to help build a better community through the residents’ association that led to his becoming involved with Quedgeley Parish Council earlier this year. “Quite a few local people and members of the residents’ association suggested that I get involved with the parish council,” he says. “Kingsway really needs a voice and, although in an ideal world it would have its own parish council, taking a seat on Quedgeley Parish Council seemed one way of giving Kingsway that voice. I hope to get residents’ views and needs heard and things actioned for the better of the community.
“I would really like Kingsway to have its own parish council, but in order to form one we need a certain amount of signatures to get the whole process off the ground. At this moment in time, although the community is building and growing, we still have a fair way to go in getting the amount of support needed to make that a reality. So for Kingsway to have its own parish council is a work in progress at the moment until a lot more people show more of a desire for it. As well as giving the community its own voice, having a parish council of its own would see Kingsway benefit from additional funding through the parish precept. But for the time being, all I can do is keep working to give Kingsway its own voice through Quedgeley.”
And it’s this desire to give Kingsway its own voice which sees him standing for county council next year. Already vice chairman and campaign manager for Gloucester Labour Party and a councillor on the planning committee for Quedgeley and Kingsway, Barry wants to have an involvement in the bigger decision-making process which directly affects his community – one such decision being the controversial waste incinerator proposed for nearby Javelin Park at Haresfield – a mere three miles down the road from Kingsway.
Asked what he thinks about the county council’s plans for the new incinerator, Barry – an engineer by trade who worked in the defence industry for more than 10 years – replied: “We do have to deal with the city’s waste issue – that’s a fact. And through many years of working in industry and engineering, I know that the most effective way of disposing of residual (black bag) waste (that which can’t be easily recycled) is through incineration. Even if we went down the route of using other technologies as suggested by the likes of GlosVAIN – such as mechanical and biological treatment (MBT), anaerobic digestion and the like – at some point, even in those processes, we would still have to incinerate.
“So my argument is not with the incinerator itself. My issue is with the county council’s consultation process and its proposed location. At risk of sounding like a NIMBY, I really don’t believe that Javelin Park is the best place for it – and that has nothing to do with its close proximity to Kingsway. It has more to do with the first impression it will create for visitors coming into Gloucester northbound from the M5.
“Gloucester has set itself up as a tourist destination, and many of those tourists travel into the city from the south of the country along the M5, getting off at Junction 12. This ‘gateway to Gloucester’ – a huge incinerator with a massive chimney belching out smoke – will be the first thing they see. What sort of a welcome is that?
“But I don’t hold with the objections being raised on health grounds – we already have two incinerators in Gloucester (one in Quedgeley and one at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital) – or with the argument that the county council will be bussing in waste from other counties (and even countries). I really don’t believe that is the case. I believe that the incinerator will serve only this area.
“Neither do I think that the incinerator will lead to an increase in HGVs on the county’s roads. They are already here on our roads, travelling in and around the city carrying our waste to landfill at Hempstead. What I am concerned about is that Junction 12 will not be able to cope with the concentration of traffic that will be directed to that one area.
“I do think that some of those campaigning against the incinerator are barking up the wrong tree with some of their objections. Any arguments should be based more on what we don’t know than what we do know. I’m a great believer of questioning things.
“I don’t see how it can be that the county council appears to be holding all the keys. People should have the right to consent and consult. The way the county council has handled this whole process is not objective. It has signed itself up to a £500 million contract (ahead of planning permission being obtained), in a manner that it knows to appear incestuous in terms of decision making. The fact that the planning decision sits with the county council too does not make for independent and well-balanced decision making. These types of decisions should lie with an independent, third-party body, so that the county council can be perceived to be objective by its electorate.
“It’s this kind of handling which makes it hard for people to know who to believe. This whole process needs an objective voice of reason.”
I ask Barry what local issues he would like to address if he is successful in his county council bid next year.
“Well firstly, I would like a complete review on the incinerator and the way the whole proposal has been handled,” he says.
“I would also like to address the issue of education in the county. I’d like to take a look at how the LEA is dealing with the new academies and free schools, and how they are being administered.
“And, being home educators ourselves, my wife Amanda and I know that a lot of people who, like us, have taken the decision to educate our children at home, feel let down by the Local Education Authority. When applying for schools, for example, there isn’t an option box for parents to tick that says they would like to home educate their children. Because of this, many think that it’s a legal requirement to send their children to school to be educated, but that isn’t the case at all. There’s a significant few who don’t realise that home education is there as an option, and I’d like to make that significant few aware that it is.
“I would also take a serious look at adult social care in the county. Last year the county council went over budget by £2.5 million on spending in this sector. They seriously underestimated the amount of money needed to fund the resources and services needed for adult social care and overspent by a huge amount. And while yes, the trimming and cutting down of county council services is sadly needed across all sectors, I want to ensure that it’s not at the cost of the most vulnerable in our society.
“Public transport is another issue I’d like to take a look at, as well as the actual roads themselves. For example, Bodiam Avenue needs to be better maintained and the A38 through Quedgeley is a terrible mess. It is barely ever cleaned and just looks awful. It creates a terrible first impression to visitors travelling into the city northbound from the M5. They don’t provide a very warm welcome and don’t do a lot to help our tourist industry.”
So that’s Barry Kirby – a very busy man who has his fingers in a lot of pies, including running his own business, K Sharp Ltd – providing human factors consultation – for which, among many things, he designs computer interfaces for aircraft and training simulators, as well as being a bit of a social media and web design specialist.
Is there no end to this man’s talents – or energy? Well, hopefully we’ll find out next year if he’s successful in his bid to make it into the corridors of power at Shire Hall. Watch this space!