From The Whistler archives …
I’d lived in Buckingham Road, West Hill one week and five years before I moved away to more southern climes last month, way beyond St Nicholas Church, down, down the long hill towards the briney.
For my last contribution to the dear old Whistler I want to talk about neighbours. Five years and one week is a long time in one flat and, on the neighbour front, not without its trials. But all in all I think we did pretty well. We had lots of fun, shared a few meals and a few beers, the odd barbecue, an occasional party and it was always nice to run into one another and chat. Then came the dry rot. On this subject I have some very sound advice. If you don’t think you’ve got it, don’t look for it because once you know it’s there, it becomes blank cheque time for the experts and you’re the poor sucker who has to sign for it. Everyone is working on behalf of the Freeholder and you, as a lease holder, simply foot the bill. But it’s at times like these you really get to test your relationship with your neighbours, and I am glad to say in our case it proved what a good bunch they were. We talked things through and presented a united front.
Then I moved. We did it ourselves with the help of six friends and the whole thing was good fun and relatively painless. We invited them all round that evening for a meal among the boxes and played a little background music. Then the phone rang. “I’m your downstairs neighbour”. (A welcome call I thought). “Can you turn the music down”. Click – the phone went dead. Midnight came and we got a second phone call. “If you look at the lease you’ll find that no TVs or stereos are allowed after midnight.” Since then, we’ve had phone calls and visits midday on Saturday or 4pm on Sundays when the music has been so quiet it’s just not a reasonable request.
After talking to our other neighbours, who are brilliant and really friendly, I now know that our downstairs neighbours are simply audio terrorists. If I had the money I’d buy them a detached house in Surrey and take them there tomorrow, but I don’t so we’ve decided to ignore them. But what an unnecessary attitude. If they’d bothered to come and talk to us, explain the insulation is poor, or they work shifts or one of them was brought up by bats and has ultrasonic hearing. we’d make every effort to accommodate them. I just hope Buckingham Road has been more welcoming to my successors! I am sure they will have been – after all you get a better neighbour up there on the hill.
Anthony Bullock, 1993
The West Hill Car Park
Local residents will have marked with interest the extension of the municipal car-parking scheme operated by Brighton Council: it now includes West Hill Road! Completed without consultation with the homeowners and carried out by officials acting as agents for East Sussex County Council, the road was turned into a parking lot overnight. Rain-sodden, totally incomprehensible, torn notices had been displayed on the side of the road designated for the new four hour parking bays. The increase in traffic danger, pollution and noise has affected all the residents; and all the residents should have had a chance to influence the decision making.
Protestations were made after the event but to no avail. A letter from a Council Officer contains the admission that it ‘hides one end of the road from the other’ and proposes a ‘passing place’ which might avoid the outbursts of temper and fisticuffs of car drivers refusing to reverse when coming across another approaching at speed.
Our complaints brought forth the rejoinder that the were lucky to be living near ‘the thriving town centre’ and that it would only continue to thrive if we voluntarily donated our resident parking spaces to those wealthy incomers desperately fighting their way to Churchill Square. Observations revealed Post Office workers, taxi drivers, construction workers and commuters advantageously parking their vehicles, happily locking them up for the day, to the detriment of the residents who had the new privilege of performing their civic duties by parking three or four streets away from their homes. Disabled residents contributed further by being fined for extending the stay of their vehicles outside their dwelling place.
Protests that this road was not designed for two lines of parked cars, with barely a car’s width between them were brushed aside. So, as our house values diminish (parking lots are not the healthiest place to live), our house fabrics unsettle and crumble, with the increased traffic load, our peace and quiet enjoyment of our homes is destroyed by the manoeuvrings of pantechnicons, lorries, garbage disposal vans which pass barely without scraping, we wonder at a society under the rule of paper tigers, with so little regard for individual civic rights.
Sylvia Alexander-Vine, 1993
[Write to email@example.com and let us know what you think of West Hill in 2015 – Ed]