At the present time, the Localism Bill has been through the House of Commons and has reached the committee stage in the House of Lords. It's a very wideranging Bill and there have been numerous proposed amendments, additions and subtractions, so it is by no means clear what the detailed provisions will be by the time it becomes law.
What exactly is Localism, bearing in mind that the Bill contains 146 new Central Government powers? It contains various sections covering such items as the New Homes Bonus and the abolition of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), but Part 5 is the main one dealing with planning. It includes as its main topics, regional planning, a stronger duty to consult, neighbourhood planning, financial considerations, preapplication consultation, community assets, referenda and predetermination, a presumption in favour of sustainable development and the national policy framework.
There has been much discussion about the opportunities civic societies may have to be involved in the preparation of neighbourhood plans. For a group to be eligible it must have a minimum of 21 members although, in rural areas, it is anticipated that parish councils would be the appropriate body. The group also has to be approved and supported by the local council. The procedure includes a number of stages, including a comprehensive survey of the area, because the document has to be evidence-based. Any proposal has to conform to the Local Development Framework (LDF), it cannot put forward a reduced level of development compared with the LDF, and it will have to be subject to an independent inquiry and be approved by a local referendum with a minimum of 50% respondents in favour. Clearly this work will attract considerable costs.
A grant of £20,000 has been made available to each of a number of vanguard or pilot schemes that have been announced. Three of those in the north-west are Cockermouth, Hoylake and Devonshire Park in Birkenhead, all of which already had a partnership in place between a community group and the local authority. In Cockermouth, it was the local civic society that had initiated a scheme for restoring Main Street after the floods of November 2009; in Hoylake there was a group working on a project to improve the village centre and, in Devonshire Park, there was a residents' association concerned because large Victorian and Edwardian houses were being converted into flats that were changing both the character and social mix of the area.
Another opportunity which the Bill incorporates is the right for communities to acquire assets. This is not as straightforward as it might appear, as the first step is for groups to identify what they consider to be community assets. These could range from playing fields to a corner shop, school, even a pub. If the owner of a community asset wishes to sell it, the community has to be given six weeks' notice, during which time it has to decide whether it wishes to acquire the asset. If it does so, it then has three months in which to put together a bid. During this period, the owner of the property is not allowed to sell it and, even at the end of the period, the group's bid may not be successful because it could be sold to someone else for a higher figure.
A further proposal is the replacement of all existing Planning Policy Guidance notes (PPGs) by a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which is intended to be a slim concise document. The principle underlying this policy is that there should be a presumption in favour of sustainable development.
It envisages that local authorities will plan positively for new development and approve new individual proposals wherever possible and, where they accord with statutory plans, this should be done without delay. However, where a plan is absent, silent, indeterminate or relevant policies are out of date, permission must be granted. The implications of this are obvious, given that only about 20% of the country is covered by up to date plans.
These thoughts are based on the information obtained from seminars and professional publications and are an attempt to interpret the evolving situation. They should therefore be viewed as possible outcomes rather than definitive statements...
Over the years there have been many challenges to the interpretation of existing planning legislation which has only been resolved in court. With the multiplicity of changes in the new proposals, there is bound to be much uncertainty and resultant litigation which could provide a field day for lawyers.
Peter Colley, Chairman of the North West Association of Civic Trusts and Societies
* * * * * * * * *
I had never been aware of the existence of Lytham Hall before the visit by the Association was arranged for the 5th March. This has to be one of the best kept secrets of Lancashire because, despite its present condition, it is one of the most beautiful Georgian buildings I’ve seen. I hasten to add that while it is in need of some restoration it is not a ruin by any stretch of the imagination; indeed it is often used as a venue for wedding receptions and similar events requiring an attractive backdrop for such occasions.
The entrance gateway does not shout at you as it has, unfortunately, been surrounded by housing development. But once you pass through it you are almost immediately in a different world of space and, yes, elegance. The drive winds attractively through woodland which eventually opens out to reveal the Hall itself. The impact of that view is considerable and almost shocking if you are not expecting it.
The Hall is a grade 1 listed building and was designed by John Carr of York for Thomas Clifton in the 1750s. It was added to the remains of the previous Jacobean house which was adapted for use as servants’ quarters and is still there today. Beneath the Jacobean house lie the remains of the 12th century Lytham Priory.
The plasterwork is of an exceptional quality and each and every fireplace that I saw was different in its design (see the photograph below for an example).
The Clifton family owned it until the early 1960s. By then however much of their wealth had been squandered and the one remaining inhabitant, Clarice Clifton was occupying what amounted to an apartment in one small part of the building. The last Clifton to inherit, Harry, sold off all he could but died in Brighton with little to his name.
Sold then to an insurance company, Guardian Royal Exchange, the Hall was used as its offices for 30 years. Although keeping the fabric of the building in reasonable repair they gave the architecture and gardens no particular sympathy, for instance removing an entire formal garden and tarmacking it over as a car park.
In 1996 the house was put on the open market for sale and the agricultural land auctioned separately. A remarkable campaign was launched by local residents, Lytham Town Trust and the Friends of Lytham Hall and supported by many voluntary organisations, with very little time to act, to gather funds together to buy the Hall for the community. They were exceptionally successful in this and, aided by British Aerospace which made a generous donation of £1 million to purchase it from Guardian, achieved their objective in 1997.
It is owned therefore by Lytham Town Trust but operated by The Heritage Trust for the North West. It has since been run as a charitable trust slowly but surely raising the profile of the Hall as a potential visitor attraction and, as stated above, as a venue for wedding parties and conferences.
They have now embarked upon another drive to raise money, this time to achieve a level of renovation intended to bring the interior of the house back to its former glory.
NWActs has decided that in 2011-12 it would support this initiative, with the intention of taking on a similar role with regard to buildings at risk in other areas of the North West over subsequent years.
It is hoped that societies will feel this is a worthwhile approach to the protection of our heritage and will be prepared to raise or donate money for this cause. This will help to raise the profile of our shared interest in the built environment and by working together we can make an impact on the preservation of properties we would like everyone to enjoy.
Donations may be sent to our Treasurer, Brian Gilbert, 434 Holcombe Road, Helmshore, Rossendale, BB4 4LX, and marked for The Appeal for Lytham Hall.
The very latest news is that Heritage Lottery Fund has now awarded £2.4 million to help in the restoration of the Hall and the grounds.
Iain Spencer Gerrard
Editor's Note: Iain's article also appears on the NWActs website (www.nwacts.org.uk) where these and other photographs can be seen in colour and much larger on the screen.
* * * * * * * * *
We’re pleased to include another extract from Rod Broome’s “Memory Box”, this time his reminiscences of a childhood holiday in Blackpool.
‘Shall we go up then?’ asks Dad.
I jump up from the lino where I’m playing with my toy fort and we head for the kitchen because we’re going upstairs to the attic. We climb the first staircase, creep past the door where my little sister is asleep, and then go up the second flight to the top of the house.
Dad swishes back the long curtain that hangs from one of the beams and we stare at the piles of cardboard boxes, tins of paint, pieces of lino and bags of old clothes stacked up behind it.
‘Can you see them?’ asks Dad, surveying the huge pile.
‘No. What colour are they?’
‘Er…brown, I think.’
We both look carefully and eventually see the corner of a large brown suitcase peeping out from under a cover that’s supposed to be keeping off the dust.
Dad leans over and waggles the case from beneath its sheet and, as he does so, there’s a clunk and a soft rumble as several things shunt down and reposition themselves. He puts it on the floor between us and scratches his head.
‘There’s only one here. Where’s the other one, I wonder?’
He doesn’t expect an answer. He’s just thinking aloud. But I rush downstairs at top speed, have a conversation with Mum, and race back up to the attic again.
‘It’s inside the big one,’ I gasp breathlessly, and watch as Dad clicks open the case and discovers a slightly smaller one nestling inside!
We both have a laugh and Dad carries them downstairs and puts them in the front bedroom. Tomorrow Mum will be packing our clothes ready for our holiday by the seaside.
* * *
It’s Saturday morning and the first day of the Wakes holiday. Dad doesn’t have to go to work for a whole week. Standing by the vestibule door are two brown cases with straps around them, and we are sitting at the table eating our breakfast.
Mum, Maureen and I have cornflakes and Dad has bread and cheese, and after the table has been cleared we all have to wait until it’s time to set off for the railway station.
The hands on our clock seem to have stopped moving! I read a book and play with my cars for what seems like ages until at last Mum says, ‘Right, I think we’d better be setting off now, Arnold.’
I jump to my feet, bursting with excitement. Mum lifts Maureen into her pushchair and Dad folds away his newspaper, picks up our cases and puts them in the vestibule. We all go outside, and then Dad turns and locks the door, picks up the cases and leads the way down Harehill Road to Littleborough railway station.
When we get to the Square, lots of families are making for the station. And when we get on the platform it’s crowded! Mum and Dad seem to know everyone and spend a lot of time chatting about the weather and whether the train will come on time.
Suddenly, there’s a distant rumbling along the track followed by an expectant rustle in the crowd. Everyone picks up their case or travelling bag and turns to see the approaching locomotive. The huge black engine, with the black-faced driver leaning from his cab, grinds slowly towards us belching out clouds of smoke and steam. It glides to a halt just past where we are standing and, along with everyone else, we move forward, open a carriage door and climb inside.
There are two rows of seats facing each other. Dad lifts our cases on to the luggage rack and then we all settle down along one side, with me next to the window. Other people come into the carriage and soon every seat is filled.
‘When will we get to the seaside, Dad?’ I ask, as the train pulls away.
‘This train is going to Manchester. We have to catch another one to Blackpool.’
‘What’s it like at Blackpool, Dad?’
Mum gives me a sidelong glance, and then leans towards me and says very quietly, ‘We’re not staying in Blackpool. We’re staying in Cleveleys – it’s much nicer there.’
‘Is it still the seaside?’ I whisper.
The engine pulls into Victoria Station and everyone hurriedly changes to the Blackpool train. Soon we are all steaming steadily through the countryside. The fields and trees fly by and the wheels of our carriage chant: ‘I’ll-get-you-there, I’ll-get-youthere, I’ll-get-you-there’ until suddenly an old man at the opposite end of the carriage looks across and says, ‘Do you want to see the tower, sonny?’
I slide out of my seat and go and stand in front of him by the window. He points into the distance and there, on the skyline, is a tiny spindly triangle.
‘Is that it?’
‘Yes, that’s the tower. Have you brought your bucket and spade?’
I glance back at Mum and she helps me out. ‘No, we’re going to buy them when we get there,’ she says.
Everyone piles out at Blackpool Station and there’s a scramble for buses or taxis. Dad leaves me to look after Mum and Maureen and goes to make enquiries. I think that means he’s trying to find which bus goes to Cleveleys. When he comes back, he points to one with Anchorsholme printed in the little window on the front.
‘This is the one,’ he says confidently and we all clamber aboard. Dad stores the pushchair under the stairs and we sit on the back seat to be near the conductor so he can tell us when to get off.
After a short time, the bus pulls up at our stop and we make our way to the boarding house where we’re going to stay for the week. Mum knocks on the door and a short round woman with a smiley face comes to answer it.
‘Hello,’ says Mum. ‘Mrs. Harrison?’
Mrs. Harrison nods and we are invited in and shown to our room which is upstairs. It’s a large room with a double bed for Mum and Dad, a single bed for me and a cot for Maureen.
‘The bathroom is just along the corridor,’ says Mrs. Harrison. ‘The meal times are on the card behind the door, and we also do a light supper – just a cup of tea and a piece of cake - between nine and nine-thirty in the evening. Have you brought your coupons, Mrs. Broome?’
Mum hands over our ration books and Mrs. Harrison leaves us to unpack our clothes and get ready for our first meal in the dining room.
A gong sounds in the distance and we all go down into the hall. On one side is ‘The Lounge’ with its circle of easy chairs and settees, and on the other side is ‘The Dining Room’ containing four small tables covered with white tablecloths. We soon find the place-card with Mr. and Mrs. Broome and Family written on it, and sit down at that one.
I look around the room. There’s an old couple with white hair sitting in front of the window, an airman and a young lady at a table near the wall, and a Mum and Dad with a baby on the table next to ours.
We all smile politely at each other and say ‘Hello’.
Our family is on its best behaviour. Mrs. Harrison brings in the food, and asks Mum if we’ve settled in comfortably. Mum says thank you very much, everything is lovely. She speaks very quietly and frowns at me if I make a noise or put my elbows on the table. There is a high chair for Maureen who eats everything without banging on the little tray.
After tea, we have a look in The Lounge, and then Mum decides she’d like to go for an evening walk. So out we go, into the fresh salty air, enjoying everything we see. We stroll along the prom, wander down on to the beach, throw pebbles into the incoming tide, pass an amusement arcade, search for a bucket and spade shop, pause at a kiosk to read about Gypsy Petrulengo, and finally return to our boarding house as the sun begins to set over the sea.
Later, when Dad comes in to say goodnight, he gives me a challenge. ‘I’ll get you up early tomorrow morning and we’ll take a walk before breakfast,’ he says. I smile and nod my agreement before instantly falling asleep.
* * *
Being on holiday is great fun! I wake to find Dad gently shaking me and I am out of bed in one minute! The clock on the landing says 7 o’clock as we nip along to the bathroom before anyone else is up. We dress quietly, creep downstairs and walk out into the sea air.
Then off we go to have our ‘hop bitters’. Dad told me all about this before we came away. Just round the corner from the boarding house is a shop that opens early. It sells newspapers and magazines, but at one end in an alcove there are a couple of little tables and a few chairs. Dad orders two glasses of hop bitters and the man brings them to the table where we sit and drink them together. Then we set off for a very quick walk along the promenade – much quicker than Mum could walk – and get back to the boarding house feeling hungry and just in time for breakfast.
* * *
It’s after ten o’clock when we walk up the road again towards the beach. We find a smooth stretch of sand and Dad helps me to make a sand castle with a moat around it and a channel going out towards the sea. The tide is sweeping in and as it comes closer it fills up the channel, and then the moat, until finally it washes over the castle, making everything smooth again.
We move to the top of the beach where the sand is dry and there is a man with a little group of donkeys. As I stand looking at them, Mum has a surprise for me.
‘Would you like a ride on one?’ she asks.
Dad comes with me and I give the money to the man. He asks me which donkey I’d like to ride, so I choose Bridget. Dad lifts me on to her back and the man holds the reins and leads her along the beach, but when he turns her round at the pole she trots back to the start, bouncing me up and down. It’s great!
Mum says Maureen can have a donkey ride too, but only if Dad walks along beside her.
I am taking my shoes and socks off ready for a paddle when Dad looks at his watch and says, ‘Good gracious, it’s nearly one o’clock!’ and I have to put them on again quickly so we can hurry back to our boarding house for dinner!
* * *
In the afternoon we’re on the beach again. Mum and Dad hire two deckchairs and put them on the sands like lots of other people. This time I do get to paddle in the sea and Maureen makes sand pies with her new bucket and spade. As a special treat, Dad goes off to buy some ice creams. He comes back with three. Dad and I have a cornet each, and Mum and Maureen share a tub.
After we’ve eaten them, Dad says he’ll help me to collect pebbles, so I pick up the bucket and we go near the breakwaters where lots of them have gathered. We find smooth white ones, black sparkly ones and some with curving stripes of different colours.
In one of the pools left behind by the tide there are lots of little creatures darting about. They have clear bodies so you can see right through them! I put in my hand and move a stone and a tiny crab hurries out sideways before shuffling itself backwards under the edge of a rock.
* * *
Today is the last day of our holiday. It’s been a great week and we’ve done lots of interesting things. Tomorrow we have to go home, but today we are spending the afternoon in Blackpool and Dad says we’re going to make the most of it!
When we arrive, we walk along to the Pleasure Beach. I can’t believe it! Rows of coloured lights are chasing each other round the tops of the stalls and, high above us, people scream as the Big Dipper swoops up and down on its track in the sky. There are Roll-a-Penny stalls, and Hoop-la, and games where you throw darts into a board, and try to win a prize.
Dad takes me on the dodgem cars, but he lets me drive, and I go on the helter-skelter all by myself. We watch people coming out of the Ghost Train with scared expressions on their faces, and stand for a while giggling at the clown roaring with laughter in his glass case.
As we walk towards the Tower, we see a crowd of people standing round a big shop window. They are watching people dressed in white coats working inside. Mum says that they are making rock. I watch them put some big red letters spelling Blackpool into the middle of a white sugar mixture. Then they wrap some red toffee around the whole thing so that it looks like a barrel. They put it in a rolling machine and it comes out in long tubes that are cut into pieces just the right size.
Dad says, ‘Well, shall we go and buy some then?’ and we follow Mum to the counter where she buys five sticks, so I can give some to my friends at home.
Mum says she would like one last walk to the end of the pier and we have just crossed the road when a man with a camera suddenly appears and takes a snapshot of us without asking.
He gives a ticket to Dad and says we can collect the picture in half an hour from a kiosk on the prom., so on our way back to the tram, Dad hands in the ticket, and pays some money and now we have a photograph of our family enjoying ourselves at the seaside.
‘That’s a really good photograph,’ says Mum in a happy voice. ‘When we get home I’ll put it in our album. It will remind us of our very first holiday after the War.’
* * *
I still have that photograph of our family walking along Blackpool Promenade. It is rather tatty and faded now, but it has a special place in my Memory Box.
Editor: Brian Walker
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