Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Voice of … St Pauls Road

Sue King of the Village Voice

Sue King of the Village Voice

Our second street survey of opinion focused on St Paul’s Road. The overwhelming impression was that faith in the school, the YMCA, the Council and the police taking any notice of residents’ concerns was almost non-existent. Indignation ran high, sometimes amounting to a deep sense of betrayal. Several thought the police to be on the side of the ‘yobs’ and insolently inimical to decent people. The YMCA is a major concern, both as regards parking and rowdy teenagers at night. Emotions are at boiling point regarding parents and teachers from St Paul’s School clogging the road with cars and parking irresponsibly.

The articles in this feature are condensed from a 3,200 word report by Sue King, copies of which are available free from our office at 79 Bohemia Road. To read the full report, click here.

YMCA

”Lots of people won’t park in the YMCA car-park because it’s difficult to get out of, so they park in the road.” – Peter Welford said the YMCA used to allow residents to park in their car park out of hours. “Then they put up railings to stop people. It’s an eyesore; a complete waste of money.  They should have spent the money on making the building nicer.” He was upset about excessive noise from teenagers after 10pm. “We can’t get to sleep and I get abuse if I tell them. Years ago at 10pm they all went home. Now it’s noisy until nearly eleven. Children smashed a window with a brick. I complained but the YMCA wouldn’t let me use their phone to phone the parents or police.   When the police came they said they’d prosecute me because I got hold of his ear’ole.” – Barbara Welford said when she tactfully asks the children to keep the noise down, they do. “They really don’t realise the noise they’re making.  I’ve asked the YMCA to have someone at the gate to tell them to go home afterwards. There’s very little area for kids to play.” – “They’re sitting on the wall shouting their mouths off and keep us awake.” – “The YMCA should police what happens.” – “The YMCA is more trouble than enough.”  – “There are no problems with the YMCA.”  (resident of 23 years). – “The YMCA is great.  It provides things for young people to do, but the downside is groups of young people and noise. It keeps people on edge. You can’t quite relax in case there’s something else going on; vandalism. I’m not one who sees every young person wearing a hood as a vandal.   I try not to be a nimby, but older people might feel a bit more vulnerable” (Jim Proudfoot). – ”There should be more for children to do, especially things they can do by themselves in a safe environment without money.” (Nicola West). – Karen Manning, who runs the YMCA said it was always busier in summer because of students. The youth clubs “get them off the streets and stop them vandalising. We offer that as a community service.”

ENVIRONMENT

– “Plastic windows and doors are ruining those lovely Victorian and Edwardian houses in Bohemia Road.  I’d like to see it a conservation area.   It’s defaced by enormous 24-hour lit-up signs (Lidl and Shell). Light pollution and all these modern buildings spoil it.” (James Caspian). – “Those dreadful plastic flowers! [i.e. the council’s hanging baskets in Bohemia Road].  This is the main entry to the town – and it’s a joke.” (new resident).

RUBBISH

– “Veolia?   They’re pretty rubbish!” (Vic Bond). – ”I complained to the council because a dirty nappy was in the street for three weeks.” (Mrs Hollett). – “Dog mess is bad, especially as there’s a school.” – “Drains fill up with mud and it all gushes down the road. We don’t see road sweepers. They can’t be sweeping it.” – “Street cleaning is atrocious” – ”This road needs extra cleaning, with the school at one end and the YMCA at the other.” – ”Litter is awful.   It’s a scandal; especially when the dustmen have been.“ – “We should all pick up our rubbish and not whinge!”(Barbara Welford).

PARKING

There is danger, especially to children, from speeding cars, boy racers, and bikes. A few residents favoured speed bumps and controlled parking. Others disagreed. – “I don’t agree with paying for parking outside your own house, especially since people who pave over their front gardens don’t have to pay.   We only have small gardens here.” (Vic Bond). – “We were thinking about a front garden car park.   We can, as we have no bay window, but it’s very expensive.” – “It’s gone down the dumps.   It used to be a really nice residential area, but now we have coaches and lorries parking.” (long-established resident).

NEIGHBOURHOOD

– “I’ve only been here a short time but I’ve got to know quite a few people.   People are friendly.   I feel I can call on people in an emergency.   People chat quite a lot.” – Barbara Welford, petitioning  about litter, met neighbours she had never met before despite living here 23 years. “The neighbourhood has got less friendly due to us all having cars rather than walking.   It’s not anything to do with the people.” – Other comments included :   “family-orientated” – “We all look after each other in this street.” -”My next-door neighbours look after me because I lost my husband.” – “We love it here.   It’s convenient for schools and parking.” – “Lots of life is coming into the road.   The street has got nicer; people have done the houses up.  I talk to all the neighbours.   It’s nice and friendly.”(Terry Baker). – “It’s a good place to live.   I came as a visitor, and thought, ‘This is nice; if a house ever comes up I’d like to move here.’” (Jim Proudfoot). – ”Apart from parking it’s a lovely area.   Very friendly and helpful, and seems to be safe.   There’s a good community spirit.” (Jenny Chantry). – “After 27 years in inner London, it’s paradise here!   People are friendly, it’s peaceful, relaxed – fantastic parks and woods. I’ve been in the Park – the woods – with a group of Friends, clearing it. It’s already let in a lot of light and encouraged lots of bluebells.”(James Caspian). – “I like the area, but people don’t seem to take much interest in the neighbourhood, except the old stalwarts in the Bohemia Area Association.   Meetings are open to everybody.   I’d like to see more people attending, and it would give it a stronger voice.” – Barbara Welford said “We’ve actually made a conscious decision that we’re going to be carried out of here.”

BEHAVIOUR

Parents, teachers, even the ice-cream man touting for custom were criticised, but there were no complaints about the children.   A resident of twenty years standing enjoys them making friends with her dogs.   Her only complaint was the ice-cream man making a noise right outside her window every schoolday. But there were complaints about bad behaviour, bad language, and vandalism.   -“Cars were vandalised down the whole road.” -“There’s swathes of abusive teenagers going up and down the road. The police said it would be kept under control by a curfew, but nothing was ever done.”  – Some said they had never seen police or street wardens and asked “have we got any?” – One complained of youths playing football in the road, “although there are two pitches nearby.” – Youths leaving pubs were blamed for vandalism and noise, especially at weekends. “Since the Wheatsheaf has extended its opening hours, Friday and Saturday nights are very rowdy until 1 o’clock in the morning…or maybe it’s just that the kids have now come of age to go to the pub.” (Vic Bond ). – A resident said hooliganism was the only thing wrong with the area.   “Children as young as five or six jump out in front of cars on purpose, but I don’t think they’re from this road.   I think they’re from *****Road” – Several residents named the same road as a source of hooligans disturbing St. Paul’s Road. -“Groups of yobs hang out at the supermarket – they kept tormenting an old lady who goes to the supermarket every time she went there. Eventually she told the police. All they said was, ‘change your route going home.’   What are we paying our taxes for?   They should have a bit of respect. If I saw them mistreating the elderly I’d give them a slap!” – “The police never came when my other half reported something thrown at him by yobs.   Six youths threw some fluid at him which exploded.  They did it three times at least, but missed. They might hurt somebody next time. Then people wonder why people take the law into their own hands. I feel very strongly about it. So does my partner, as the police said they wouldn’t come to see him.   Pathetic! I just want to live a normal life and go out.   And elderly people want to be able to go out without being scared.” -“What can we do?   It’s a waste of time reporting things.” – “There was a big disturbance at night outside our house. The police wouldn’t come. They said phone the community officer.   But we don’t know how to get hold of him. Old PC Barrie was very good. He knew everyone, but since he retired we haven’t seen anyone.” (Mrs Hollett).

LOCAL SHOPPING

Many want traditional basic shops:   grocers, greengrocers, butchers, post office. – “We don’t need kebabs and pizzas, we need essential needs” (Nicola West). – “There’s a need to encourage nicer shops that sell proper goods.   It needs a bit of life in that road.” (Terry Baker). – “The shops are a disaster. The council should be more pro-active re local businesses, for example, subsidising the business rate. This council seems to be dreadfully reactive.   It should take the initiative.” (new resident). – “It’s a good local shopping area; convenient shops and petrol station.”  – Yellow lines and supermarkets were blamed for closing shops. – “It’s a nice area, with a lovely pub, the Dripping Spring – lovely beers!   It’s got good communications; there’s buses, and you can walk to the station for London.   There’s shops -but problems with parking-, though it’s a pity things like grocers, butchers and greengrocers have closed.” (Peter Welford).

ST PAUL’S SCHOOL

Parents often park, even double-park right on corners, making it very dangerous.  Double-parking is rife, posing potential problems for fire engines. Parents do U-turns, park irresponsibly “just waving to their kids,” and “abandon cars in the middle of the road.” One resident’s wing mirror was smashed three times in two months. Many residents are forced to park several streets away. l“Some parents are very anti-social.” – ”The road is chock-a-block with parents.” – “St. Paul’s say ring the council about parking, but the council wardens don’t do much, they just say,’ Would you mind moving on, sir?’ and that’s all.” – “Wardens are only a token gesture.” – “The Council know. They held a survey, so they know where people come from.” – “The school should use their influence with parents and parking. The school is thinking of expanding its facilities, but they should consider parking.” –  “Lots of residents have had rows with parents over the way they park.” – “Teachers park in the road and not in the school any more.”  – “I wish they could close the school!   We viewed the house during the Easter holidays so we had no conception!” – Several said, “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

COMMENTS

Emma Kinsella writes (Nov 2007)

Dear Sir, regarding your article The Voice of St. Paul’s Road, I object to the remark about Friday and Saturday nights being rowdy until 1 a.m. since the Wheatsheaf extended its opening hours. In fact we have shut at midnight for the past three months. It’s a family pub, and last Sunday we had a big party for charity which raised £105. Rowdy kids going up and down the road aren’t necessarily from the Wheatsheaf. Kids often sit on the benches outside long after closing time, but they don’t come from the pub. It also implies that we serve under-age drinkers, but we don’t. The remark about the Wheatsheaf was put immediately after the comment blaming youths leaving pubs for vandalism and noise. I’m really annoyed at the implication.

Emma Kinsella, manager, The Wheatsheaf.

 

Gloria Denovan writes (Nov 2007)

Dear Sir, I enjoyed reading the highlights of the survey conducted in St Paul’s Road. Lovely Victorian houses but what a shame that the residents cannot shrug off Victorian attitudes towards children. We have adapted and come a long way since the time when children were seen but not heard. It is no longer acceptable to beat the evil out of them or send them up chimneys or down mines. Why buy a house near schools or youth clubs if you do not enjoy watching children develop? Providing the children do not enter your home or garden they have every right to be on the pavement. You may own your property but pathways and roads are for public use. The police frequently patrol this area day and night. I know this as the blue flashing lights shine through into my lounge. They have always responded when I have had the occasion to call them to move on a gang of children drinking. But then I do not call them about trivial matters. I have found that if you treat children with respect they will respond to requests to quieten down. I would suggest getting good double glazing so you can enjoy a quiet night indoors. Open your heart and be happy.

Gloria Denovan, Bohemia

 

Peter Holland & Andy Holmes write (Nov 2007)

Dear Sir, many thanks for the copy of your report. We shall be inviting each resident of St Paul’s Road personally to the next meeting of the BAA so that they can continue their dialogue with councillors and committee members alike.

Peter Holland & Andy Holmes, Bohemia Area Association

Judith Monk writes (Nov 2007)

Dear Sir, during the past few years we have had to refocus the work we undertake in our [YMCA] building. This mainly now takes the form of youth work and providing specialist facilities and training for young people who are struggling to develop the skills required to succeed in an advanced technological society. We still do however provide first class sports, such as our Gyros Gymnastics Club, Judo Club and family skate sessions. We also offer after- school provision for children and in addition house a top class nursery run by Jigsaw.

To provide safety and security for all of our centre users we had the car park, which was dangerously worn, resurfaced and restructured and added security cameras to cover the grounds. This remodelling also allowed us to provide access for disabled patrons. These works alone cost in excess of £30,000. The fencing was added as part of our need to maintain safe access and egress of cars and for the protection of centre users. Some local residents used to use the car park for parking at night, when away on holiday or for long term storage of cars prior to selling them. None of those residents asked permission nor offered to contribute to maintaining or repairing the car park. Their actions reduced the available space for paying customers and at times left us to pay to have unclaimed or non-running old cars removed. Not one resident has come in and asked about how much we would charge for overnight parking or if this could be offered. It may be something we can look into. The days of free parking anywhere are gone. Most residential roads in the town now have major parking problems as houses have been redeveloped into flats and families often run two or more cars each.

In fact, other than at the planning stage, when half a dozen residents expr-essed dismay at the loss of free parking, we have received no direct complaints at all about parking, noise, youngsters, broken windows or late leavers. We work closely with Hastings Safer Partnership and the Police in dealing with any perceived problem behaviour by youngsters in the Bohemia area. We run Youth Clubs and skate sessions to give the young people somewhere to go. Most of this is offered for free. This does not mean there is no cost attached, we have two unpaid volunteers working tirelessly to raise the funds to pay for these. The YMCA Board and staff are currently very busy continuing with refurbishment of the building and will shortly have an Internet Café open for use. Two of our young people have also recently secured £29,000 of funds to upgrade the toilets and showers. This Christmas we will once more open our doors to the charity Surviving Christ-mas so that people less fortunate than us can have a festive season with a decent meal and a few small gifts.

We would welcome any positive suggestions as to how we can engage with the local community and become more inclusive for them. There are spaces on our Board of 9 volunteers for people with the requisite skills; there are opportunities for volunteering to work with the children or young people and for anyone interested in helping us raise funds to run projects for children and young people. We would like to reinstate our Senior Citizens Lunch Club one day too. Should any local residents feel they can help in any way we will welcome them. Everyone is also welcome to attend our AGM which takes place on 1st November at 7.30pm.

Karen Manning and I would be delighted to meet regularly with the local residents group to discuss all these issues face to face. In fact we give the Bohemia Area Association free use of a room in which to hold their meetings although we have yet to be invited to attend or send a representative.

It is our hope that by working together with Bohemia residents and by forging a deeper understanding the YMCA can become the heart of Bohemia and not just another NIMBY.

Judith Monk, Chairman, Hastings & Rother YMCA

Andrew Cartwright writes (Nov 2007)

Dear Sir, regarding your article on St Paul’s Road,

  • Street cleaning – the contractor is responsible for keeping each street clean to a specific standard. Hastings Borough Council monitors the contractor to ensure that the streets are being kept clean. Together with my colleagues I have been pressing the Council to take firm action to deal with the problem of dirty streets. We discovered that the Council was so preoccupied with introducing the “Twin Bin” scheme that street cleansing was not receiving sufficient attention. Whilst it is often frustrating, working as opposition councillors, nonetheless we have been able to improve the situation slightly through advocating use of Government “Neighbourhood Renewal” funding to train staff at Hastings Borough Council to deal more effectively with the contractor.
  • Local shops & roads – although the Councils don’t provide the local shops they do provide most of the structure in which businesses can operate. In particular, it is crucial that the streets are looked after. Traders are understandably reluctant to invest their money in opening a shop if they feel that the streets are not being looked after. In this respect the local highways authority (East Sussex County Council) has served the residents of Bohemia very badly for many years. Bohemia needs better pavements, better road crossings, better traffic-flow and better parking. All of these would encourage more traders to the area and more people to shop locally. Hastings Borough Council acts as an agent for the County Council, and, since being re-elected in May I have pressed for action on numerous issues. Your county councillor Cllr Trevor Webb, is also actively pressing for improvements. On 8th October we will be presenting a petition on one particular issue at County Hall in Lewes. Most of the new street lights in this area were paid for by the Government’s “Neighbourhood Renewal” funding which had to be used to make up for under-investment by E.S.C.C.. Last week I raised this issue (at the Labour Party Conference in Bourne-mouth) with Government ministers, who, whilst sympathetic, are concerned about the possible cost of such a move.
  • Police & street wardens – a few years ago neither of these teams even existed. Since they were created they have done a great deal of work for the community. Both are very active and regularly seen on the main streets. The street wardens concentrate on “environmental crime” such as fly-tipping whilst the Neighbourhood Police concentrate on crime and anti-social behaviour. If anyone has a complaint or any issue that they would like to raise then I would be happy to hear from them.
  • Youth facilities – my belief is that for many years children and youths were undervalued in our society. Over the last ten years or so there has been major investment in facilities including school facilities and multi-use games areas. Having said that, more investment is required and I was very heartened to learn that the Government intends to impose a duty on local authorities (in our case East Sussex County Council) to provide youth facilities. At present E.S.C.C. has the power to provide facilities but a duty will compel it to take action. Although this does not guarantee a good quality service it is a step forward.
  • Bohemia Area Assn – I strongly agree with the resident who describes members of the B.A.A. as “stalwarts”. Over the years the B.A.A. has worked steadily on improving the area and I hope more residents and traders will join them.

Cllr Andrew Cartwright

 

Michael Foster writes (Dec 2007)

Dear Sir,

I am not surprised that top of the list  [of the St Paul’s Road survey] was parking. I know that some ten years ago when I started working in Bohemia it was pretty easy to park in the morning. Now one has to park regularly some distance from the main road. The problem is of course that most households now have a car and in the Bohemia area very few have garages. The activity of day visitors like me and the other offices in Bohemia also adds to the problem.
Indeed one of the challenges is that Bohemia is now a much busier place than ten years ago despite the belief that it has ‘gone down’. So far as I can see there are more shops now open in Bohemia than when we bought the Labour Party premises some thirteen years ago.

At that time there was virtually nothing open. The accountants have expanded and the insurance brokers have opened up. Indeed when looking along Bohemia although there is much to be done as a commercial centre it is more active than as I say ten years before. That in turn creates the parking problem that needs to be resolved. I guess at the end of the day parking can only be resolved by either providing more parking space (which is incredibly difficult) or by restricting the use of those spaces by resident permits or time limited parking. I have had discussions with the Residents Association about the latter as I personally feel there is a case for limited parking in areas such as Upper Park Road in order to give access to the shops. Incidentally, on the question of shops, the Government have introduced a small shop relief and most shops in Bohemia now pay much lower rates than in the past.

The survey was very positive about the sense of community and I am delighted to note that. I as the MP and I believe the local Councillors would be happy to take up specific issues, e.g. with the YMCA and with the school, although I think we would need some ‘evidence’ on which to rely. This is specifically the case when one looks at complaints about the police. I frequently raise issues relating to policing  and ask for examples, i.e. when, how, etc. Sometimes the perceptions are different from what the police say happened and often there are breakdowns in communications which simply need to be sorted. In conclusion, can I say that the comments by James Caspian [‘After 27 years in inner London, it’s paradise here!’] is something I hear all over the town.

Michael Foster, DL MP.

John Hearn writes (Nov 2007)

Dear Sir, I have read with interest your St Paul’s Road doorstep opinion. I note that there is not a mention of PCSOs being in and around the area. As the Neighbourhood Spec-ialist Officer for both Central St Leonards and Gensing Ward I am responsible for beat plans for my assigned PCSOs. Schools play a vital part in our community. Although parking would appear to be terrible at nearly every school site within our Borough, even the new schools appear to be lacking in thought for parents dropping children off. The bottleneck at St Paul’s is probably one of the worst due to its location.

Society has changed over the years and parents do not allow their children to walk to school alone or with a friend nowadays. This is a great shame. I wonder if the issuing of parking tickets will resolve the problem? As an officer of 18 years service I can say that when tackling this issue you can be giving a ticket to a motorist only to be met with the comments ‘haven’t you got anything better to do and what about those other vehicles’ I will continue to ask my PCSOs to patrol the area when possible.

I do believe that there may well be a potential answer in a loop so that children can be dropped off coming off of Amherst Road and handicap parking this I believe is being pushed by the headmistress of St Pauls.

In relation to the problem of vandals which has been highlighted, patrols are carried out by PCSOs as I myself have walk around St Pauls. There has been an increase of significant expenditure at one of Bohemia Road’s largest store as the result of public response. A better, more up to date CCTV system.

A number of youths have been identified in the area as using unacceptable behaviour. These youths will be challenged and dealt with either by way of prosecution or in conjunction with the Safer Hastings Partnership will be considered as being subject of an Anti-social Behaviour Order. Where youths/children are from a residence that belongs to a housing association they can be dealt with in certain cases for breaching their tenancy agreements which puts the onus back onto the parents to take responsibility for their children.

I was rather taken back by comments that there should be more things for children to do! What about the Oval, Summerfield’s, Horntye and YMCA – all of which have clubs. There are also scouts, guides, army cadets, even police cadets. Many volunteers give up their time to assist children but because they are often not supported they end up closing.

Both I and my fellow PCSOs will continue to serve the local community to the best of our abilities. For those people who have access to the internet have a browse through the Sussex Police website [www.sussex.police.uk] there you will find your local officers. Each of us has an email address and will try to answer any question you have. John Hearn (PC CH345), Sussex Police.

Mrs P A Lock writes (Nov 2007)

Dear Sir,

As headteacher of St Paul’s school I am responding to your survey of St Paul’s Road. There is no doubt that access to the school is extremely difficult, especially bearing in mind that we have 630 pupils at the school and 75 staff. The school was founded in 1870 and was originally situated on the YMCA site, so it has been in this vicinity for a long time. It is unfortunate that in the 1960’s it was rebuilt on a site with access at the end of a cul-de-sac. I share the residents concerns, frustration and anger at the lack of consideration from a minority of our parents who persist in obstruction, double parking and total disregard for residents, pedestrians and other users of the road. As a school we regularly send out letters to parents and have involved our local Police Community Support Officer to speak individually to some offenders. In addition traffic wardens patrol the area at peak school times.

On a daily basis there is an avoidable accident waiting to happen and I hope that a child does not have to be hurt before common sense prevails. However, having being in post since January I must say that I have not had one request from a local resident to speak to me about parking, nor have I personally spoken on the phone to anyone. It is a fantasy that the school is not concerned about the parking problems and we would very much like to be part of the solution. I would be only too willing to “get together in a neutral environment and discuss things non-aggressively” but I have not yet been approached! If anyone has an easy answer let’s hear about it. There is a limit to what the school can do on its own, as St Paul’s Road is a public highway. I can only ask parents to be vigilant, not actually enforce it. If parents then choose to double park it is the responsibility of traffic wardens to do something about it … I can’t book them! In fact, the school itself is often forced to use mobile bollards outside the gate (still on our premises) to prevent drivers parking across our emergency access.

Contrary to your article, staff do park in the school car park daily. If anyone was to come and look they would see that it is full with staff cars throughout the day, many of them double parked as there is no more space. Many staff do have to park in local roads as our car park is full to overflowing and there is no way it was ever built to accommodate approx. 50 cars at any given time of day. However, as a school we already have some plans to improve the situation. Primarily, I would like to use part of the bottom end of our field off Amherst Road to build a staff car park. This would mean that all staff cars would be off-road and therefore alleviate parking problems in St Paul’s road. However, at the current point in time we have no capital funds to do this. Maybe there is a local company who might be willing to sponsor this or to provide labour at cost?

We have also introduced cycling proficiency for older pupils to encourage some of them to cycle to school rather than come in cars. A grant has been obtained to purchase some cycle storage. We are also aiming to start a “walking bus” which means that parents can park further out from the school (or not at all) and a group of children are accompanied together walking to the school premises. In fact, we have a comprehensive Travel Plan document which residents might like to see which demonstrates our commitment to improving the area.

We would love to see the school as the centre of the community and that includes local residents. Please do not tar “the school” with the same brush as the relatively few irresponsible parents who have no consideration for others. We are much more than that. Our families come from your community and the vast majority are wonderful people with lovely children. We want to get on and give these children an enjoyable education that prepares them for the future.

So anything that can be done about the parking, let’s all work together to see what we can do. We can then get on with our real task – education!!

Mrs P A Lock, Head-teacher, St Paul’s School.

Mike McIver writes (Dec 2007)

Dear Sir, I note that the only person who seems genuinely sympathetic to the residents of the road is the headmistress at St.Paul’s. As a local Hastings boy, although now a pensioner, I still remember being a child and I for one have no objection to children playing in the street in the evenings, I can put up with a little noise, although I do object to football being played in the road (I have already lost two wing mirrors). It is the larger groups (many that do not even live on the road) that cause offence with their shouting ,many times of foul language, that I object to. Only once in a blue moon have I seen any form of police patrol St. Pauls other than having being called. The YMCA accuses residents of filling up their parking lot, I cannot comment on that but I do know that their clients do fill up our road, taking parking space from residents many many times. Regarding the car parking at the school and lack of funding, perhaps if the £36,000 spent on unnecessary dangerous road humps had been spent on school staff parking, many of these concerns could have been avoided.  Michael McIver, 20 St.Pauls Road

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