Dedication to Keith Parry on lock gate

Lock 39 with the new dedication to Keith Parry on the head gates.

Photograph: Iain S Gerrard

  National News

Planning Bill Loophole

Hundreds of thousands of people will lose the right to complain about noise, pollution or disruption caused by the construction of major infrastructure projects under proposals set out in the Planning Bill, council leaders are warning.

The Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) which oversees councils' environmental protection work, has written to Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears expressing concerns that the controversial clause would silence local opposition to new building projects via the back door. The letter has also been signed by the charity Environmental Protection UK.

Current proposals would see around 40 to 50 nationally significant infrastructure projects, including airports, rail links, trunk roads and power stations, given the go ahead each year by the proposed new national planning commission.

The Government has sought to reassure councils that they will have an important role to play, with council-produced local impact assessments highlighting any potential negative impacts of development on local people.

However the addition of Clause 151 means that once developments have been given the go-ahead, councils will be unable to act on any complaints from local people regarding nuisance caused by pollution such as noise, odour or light resulting from development work.

The Local Government Association, a cross-party organisation which represents all councils in England, has already expressed concerns that too many large-scale infrastructure projects are being put in the hands of the commission and that the wishes of local people could be bypassed. The Local Government Association wants to see the number of nationally significant infrastrcture projects reduced to single figures.

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald OBE, chairman of LACORS, said:

"What this clause effectively says is that roads, airports and power stations are more important than people's health. Everybody has a right to enjoy their own home without being disturbed by pollution such as noise, dust, smells or artificial light and councils will do everything they can to make sure this right is upheld.

"By exempting major infrastructure projects from nuisance laws the Government is tying the hands of councils, leaving them unable to respond to the legitimate concerns of local people."

Councillor Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Government Association Environment Board, said:

"It is totally unacceptable that people should not be able to complain about noise, light, pollution and general disturbances to their day to day lives. Councils need to be able to hold construction companies to account to ensure that disruption for local people is kept to an absolute minimum.

"Everyone recognises that the country needs power stations, motorways and train tracks, but it is vital that councils and local people are properly consulted and that residents know that action will be taken if their lives are unfairly disrupted."


  Talking Points

Todmorden Rejects New Wind Turbines Planning Application

On the 3rd September, 2008, at 7.30pm, in Todmorden Town Hall, Todmorden Council sat to consider the new application from Coronation Power for Wind Turbines on Crook Hill. Coronation Power had put in these new applications despite the fact that the original applications are still active but on appeal.

The public gallery at Todmorden Town hall was full to capacity with people opposed to any wind turbines being built on our attractive moorland; indeed the majority were proudly wearing lapel badges with "Say No, To Windfarms" on them. Correspondingly there was no one there from Coronation Power, nor any supporters of wind turbine power stations. Coronation Power did not even send anyone to speak on their behalf; this is the contempt with which they view both the Council at Todmorden and the people of Todmorden.

Chris Edwards from "Friends of the South Pennines" spoke very eloquently against the application and as there was no one from Coronation Power to speak for the application it went to the Committee where without any further discussion it was unanimously recommended for rejection. Indeed two further reasons for rejection were added to those included in the rejection of the previous application.

We, the people of Todmorden and Littleborough, represented by the Friends of the South Pennines, realise that our fight against these monstrosities being put on our moorland is going to be a long one, but we will not go away and we will not give up. Coronation Power be warned!

See the Secretary's Report below for news of the Pennines Planning Committee's decision on the application.


  Secretary's Report

Picture: New 'old' lamp standard at Town House

The new 'old' lamp standard at Town House

Photograph: Iain Spencer Gerrard

Cast Iron Lamp Standards in Littleborough

We were initially alerted to the removal and replacement of an old lamp standard in the Town House area by a committee member and we contacted the Street Lighting Department (Now part of the Impact Partnership, an external body which carries out much of the day to day work of the Council) asking what the present policy was.

The reply was that there was no arrangement within the Authority to replace old style lamp standards with replicas, although there was one to do so within the conservation areas and in this particular case a decision had been taken to do just that because of the character of the area.

We had pointed out in our initial enquiry that the Town House area had already been identified as a future conservation area so the distinction seemed somewhat idiosyncratic.

The replacement however, described as a 'heritage style lantern', is rather basic and hardly satisfies the necessary requirement to appear as a part of the period-style of the area around it. It is just a replica of a gas- lantern design from the Victorian era stuck on a modern column which is probably nearly twice the height of the original.

We were told that this last difference was due to the need to give a reasonable spread of illumination. One has to question such presumptive reasoning; two smaller standards at a reasonable distance from each other would have achieved this while maintaining the more appropriate appearance.

We shouldn't complain too much as we realise the constraints placed on the department of both cost and availability, but we felt that more could and should be done towards a more satisfactory solution.

It was pointed out that Oldham Authority had taken the trouble to replace all its town centre lamps, bollards, litter bins etc. with cast iron replicas which definitely enhanced the appearance and we wondered if something could be done along these lines in the future.

The cost would be greater but we wonder if all that the Authority does should automatically be paired down to the bone to the exclusion of more attractive solutions; we are after all the area of Rochdale which is supposed to offer the facilities of Leisure and Tourism and one of these is the relative charm of a small town's character.


External shutters to shops in the town centre

We have again had to object to applications to fit these protective barriers. It becomes tiresome to have to repeat ourselves but the onset of these has become a torrent it seems over recent years.

The usual reasons given are that the insurance companies will not insure shopkeepers who do not provide adequate protection for their premises or that there is often casual vandalism from drunks late at night who delight in smashing windows but have no real intent to steal from the shops.

It was pointed out to us some time ago by a senior planning officer that insurance companies can not be allowed to dictate planning policy. Likewise we feel that the appearance of our town at night shouldn't be compromised by a lack of policing.

The police advice is often at odds with what is pleasant and acceptable and could be seen to be intent on alleviating the responsibilities of the constabulary rather than solving the problem satisfactorily.

It is no consolation to a shopkeeper that his or her window ought to have been protected by police patrols when it has been smashed and of course if this occurs as part of a deliberate robbery it is even worse.

The Council has a policy to discourage external shutters wherever possible but, until recently, this has not been enforced, resulting in the plethora of hideous shutters and the appearance of a ghost town in places in the evening.

We shouldn't forget that in addition to the desire to enhance the town centre's appearance it is also part of a conservation area. We have asked of the Authority, on more than one occasion, that they write to everyone in the conservation area and remind them of its existence and what the obligations are from being within such an area.

Unfortunately we are still waiting; in the meantime the applications still come in, some of them retrospectively with pleas that they were unaware of these obligations.


Lime trees in Maden Square

A month or two ago we became concerned for the safety of the attractive lime trees in Maden Square, opposite the church on Todmorden Road.

Two attempts to develop this site had been rejected and one of the reasons given was the inevitable shading of any new dwellings by the trees. We consulted with the Authority's arboriculturist who confirmed that the trees were healthy; he also said that they were in need of more protection than that offered by them being within a conservation area. Because of this we wrote to the Planning department and asked specifically if they would place a tree preservation order on the trees.

Despite this an application was made to have 'general maintenance' done on the trees in order for 'new build to go ahead'.

This concerned us as we were aware that, as stated above, the shading from the trees was only one of a number of reasons for the rejection of previous proposals and even if the trees were worked upon there was no guarantee that a further application would be successful.

We felt that these trees were important in the way they provided a pleasant, green spot in the centre of Littleborough. In addition the work proposed was unlikely to reduce the bothersome shading unless it was truly drastic. We wrote and suggested therefore that the trees be left alone until a successful application for new buildings was achieved when suitable pruning could be carried out, assuming it was only the minimum necessary.

Sadly our suggestion was ignored and the application was approved. No time was lost and although we understand the work was carried out under the supervision of the Authority's arboriculturist the trees have now been seriously reduced in their ability to give the leafy green appearance that existed before. The small branches which covered much of the tree trunks up to the main crown of branches, which are a common feature of limes, have been stripped away. These carried a considerable number of leaves which added to the overall appearance.

We find this rather annoying because the work done, though spoiling the look of the trees, does not seem to have helped in the removal of any shading.

It does seem to us that common sense and sweet reason do not often bear fruit.


Joint Services Centre

An outline planning application has been made for this project which, if and when it is carried out, may remove some of the services from the heart of Littleborough to a new site behind the police station.

Originally it was intended to incorporate the police station as well but two or three years ago the police authority had a chance at funding for an upgrade to the station which either had to be used then or lost. I guess we can't blame them for deciding that they should use the money when it was available to improve their facilities, but it is typical of the lack of joined-up thinking so necessary in our modern world that this had to be the case; always assuming we need such a combination of uses for a building in the first place.

What could be nicer...?

Photograph: Iain Spencer Gerrard

Nevertheless, if the idea of having many of the essential services in one place is a good one the police station, while separate, is adjacent to the new centre.

The new centre will apparently incorporate the facilities of the present medical centre along with the library which is presently housed in the Carnegie Library adjacent to Hare Hill House. Although we are aware of other facilities which have been suggested for inclusion in the building, the application makes no mention of these and we wonder if the whole thing is worth the cost.

The Carnegie Library was built specifically for that purpose and has been a part of Littleborough for a hundred years. Why move it now? The facilities are, to the best of our knowledge, still perfectly adequate for housing the library and are in a central position in the town.

We wonder at the need of anyone to combine a visit to the library with one to either the police station or their doctor! Not unlikely but hardly a common event.


Wind Turbines

At the time of writing it can be reported that the latest attempt by Coronation Power to foul up our moorland, not to mention the town itself, received a resounding 'No' from the Pennines Planning Committee. This still has to go before the Regulatory Committee but we hope they will not reverse the decision.

There were reportedly 1800 letters received by the planning department showing approval for the turbines and only 180 or so against. While not disputing this it is galling to think that our money is paying for Coronation Power to fund people to petition individuals in the town centres to get them to sign a pre-written letter agreeing that the idea is a good thing; they wouldn-t be biased in their advice to the public of course.


Keith Parry Memorial

Although the new nameplate on Lock 39 has been in place now for a number of months, we don't appear to have mentioned this previously. (See photograph at the top of this newsletter)

Ray MacDonald, the lock keeper at Summit, had the idea to keep Keith's name alive in view of how much effort he had put into the revival the canal over many years, often against the belief of many local people that 'it would never happen'. British Waterways has a policy of keeping the original names of locks and so the rather prosaic name of "Second Below" had to remain but Ray requested that a dedication to Keith be added and this was agreed to.


Iain Spencer Gerrard

  Town Design Statement

The Littleborough Town Design Statement is one of the Littleborough Civic Trust's most notable achievements of recent years, having been widely praised locally (where it has been adopted as one of the Supplementary Planning Guidelines by the local authority) and also nationally by, for example, other civic societies who have seen it.

However, as reported previously in these pages, we still have quite a number of unsold copies despite several initiatives by the committee to find ways of persuading more people to buy it.

One enterprising and public-spirited member recently proposed a novel approach whereby he has agreed to fund a free copy, one per month, to be given to someone chosen by the Committee. So far several copies have been distributed in this way, for example to individuals or businesses who have put in planning applications, including a local pub and a chip shop.

Don't forget you can still get copies of the Statement and the associated Heritage Statement (prepared by Littleborough Historical and Archæological Society) on paper or Compact Disc from local outlets including the Coach House and George Kelsall's bookshop.


  Credit Crunch with a Silver Lining

Am I alone in thinking that there is a silver lining to the present credit-crunch, lack of liquidity in the banking system and a nosediving stock market?

Yes, I know that it means hardship for many people who haven't done anything to deserve it, unless you think that those who took on mortgages which they hadn't a snowball in Hell's chance of paying back deserve all they get.

Over the last ten to fifteen years I have watched appalled while so-called developers have paid increasingly vast sums for pieces of land, the previous owners pocketing the money with a smile on their faces and disappearing to more pleasant pastures where there are no nasty house-builders to blight their lives. I've watched while the houses then built have often not only been of dubious quality in their design and build, but have had the doubtful 'worth' of being boringly suitable for building anywhere in the country, not even paying lipservice to the consideration of their location.

In addition, despite government's attempts to introduce so-called affordable housing, nothing locally could even distantly be described by that epithet; practically everything around us has been of many-bedroomed sizes unsuitable for anyone without the necessary credit rating. (I can't say without money, as the very problem described above has been about crazy lending to people without money or the ability to get any.) There have been smaller sized dwellings but these have been apartments rather than houses, built for the buy-to-let entrepreneurs, and described by a local council official as the 'slums of thirty years hence'. I think he was optimistic in that comment as I regard them as slums now.

Lousy, ill-thought through, government policies have been responsible for much of this bad or non-existent planning, aided and abetted by builders (I can't really keep calling them developers as the word infers they're involved in something beneficial to society) who&'39;s only real goal has been to make money.

So why is the present financial crisis not completely doom-and-gloom?

Because the housing market has practically ground to a halt, the ridiculous mortgage lending has choked on its own greed and there is a hiatus in which we can breathe easier for a while and hopefully turn the tide into more appropriate development when this begins again, as it surely will, but with more benefit to the community.

Parochial as always I am thinking of Littleborough, of course. Nimbyism is in my blood! But my nimbyism refers to a desire to see my back yard developed along reasonable lines, driven by the needs of the locality and not the desires of a distant and out-of-touch government and brass-necked industrial builders.

The push by government to build houses by numbers is politically motivated and has no bearing on need, particularly local need. The easy access of the man in the street to 100+% mortgages meant that there was little or no accountability in his mind of the figures he was playing with; many didn't see beyond the amount they were expected to pay each month. This allowed the builders to raise their prices year on year, these bearing no relationship to the actual building costs. It also led to the readiness of the builders to pay more and more silly prices for land, fuelling a steady increase in land values: brown field sites were suddenly worth a lot of money, some existing owners even selling the land on which they had a business and moving sideways to rent land to carry on the same business.

And guess what? The steadily rising prices of new build housing didn't have the usual effect of hitting a ceiling beyond which the majority refused to go. No. The helpful and obliging mortgage companies allowed borrowing of three-, four- and five-times the wages of the mortgagee and threw in the ability to include the wife-s wage as well, even though she was likely to eventually become hors de combat for the usual biological reasons and not be earning for some years.

Well, temporarily it has come to a grinding halt and I, for one am pleased that it has.

My hope is that as the financial markets get back on their feet and begin to lend again that they do it sensibly, refusing to lend beyond reasonable limits of either the value of the property/land or the ability of the mortgagee to pay.

In the meantime let's see if we can claw back some control over planning decisions locally without government interference.

Iain Spencer Gerrard


  Update on the Statue Mysteries

Missing Statue

Missing Statue at Rock Nook Mill

We reported in the last Newsletter about a cherub statue that has gone missing from outside Fothergill's ( Rock Nook). The latest information is that it has probably been stolen. It was one of two Cherubs (the other one at Greenvale) which was depicted fighting a wild boar. It originally held a spear, but that disappeared some years ago. The figure that remains, pictured here, is wrestling what appears to be a ram and although it is still in its original position, the rose bed that used to surround it is now a lawn. We also think it may at one point have been surrounded by water.

If any of our readers with a long memory know any more about the history of the cherubs, please let the Editor know.

We also have further information on the carved tree stump that appeared on the front cover. When it became necessary to fell the tree, nearby Timbercliffe residents Mai and Mick Chatham took the opportunity to commission the sculpted head on the remaining stump. The carving was done by Hebden Bridge artist John Adamson.

An original and creative way of dealing with a problem tree!

Brian Walker





Editor: Brian Walker