House at corner of Halifax Road and Todmorden Road.
Thought by some to be an old Toll House
(Photo: Iain S Gerrard)
The Government's urban design champion has urged a radical change in the way streets are designed so the needs of pedestrians are given priority over cars and other traffic.
The call has come from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) which has published a new report setting out how radical new thinking in street design could rescue the street from the car.
The report, 'Civilized streets', has highlighted the concept of looking at streets as "shared space". The report said: "Streets that are designed as shared spaces usually have far fewer street signs, road markings or edge-of-pavement barriers.
"Pedestrians are given much more space and freedom, such as the freedom to cross where they choose and are able to. The theory behind shared space is that drivers become more hesitant - and so drive more slowly - when there is a high chance of people crossing in front of them and it is generally less clear who has the right of way."
Sarah Gaeta, director of CABE Space, said: "Most streets in this country are failing pedestrians. They need to become destinations again, and not simply ways of getting traffic from A to B. 'Civilised streets' opens the debate on how to design great streets that work for everyone".
Many local people believe that there is a need to give pedestrians priority over cars in Littleborough on Hare Hill Road and, perhaps to a lesser extent, on Church Street, so here's hoping that our Traffic Engineers have the enterprise and imagination to at least experiment with shared space here.
The current issue of "Grass Roots", the membership newsletter of the national Civic Trust movement, contains the following article by Peter Colley, Chair of the North West Region:
In the 1960s the public became concerned about the loss of traditional buildings and familiar townscapes. This stimulated the establishment of many Civic Societies in all parts of the country. With the designation of conservation areas and the adoption by local authorities of local plans containing policies to protect both the natural and built environment, the threat to our heritage seemed to diminish. In some areas, as the founder members of Societies have grown older, the absence of an immediate threat and younger people coming forward to fill vacancies on the committee, has resulted in Societies ceasing to exist.
We are now in the situation where the threats have returned, driven by an obsession by central and local government for the pursuit of economic growth. For example the report of the panel on the Examination in Public of the Regional Spatial Strategy for the North West considered that the proposed strategy was too economically biased and failed to give sufficient emphasis to the environment. This support for business activity at all costs and concerns to eliminate risks is affecting the decisions being made by local authorities. In a single week I have had reports of one authority preparing to allow a hypermarket to be built on a major open space in the town centre, another proposing to take up the cobbles in the main square of a conservation area because people might trip over them - nobody has in the last 40 years - and, funding having been allocated for a new college, another authority is proposing to demolish the existing grammar school which is one of the few distinctive buildings in the town. These are not isolated examples, but individual societies where they exist do not have sufficient clout, in many cases, to influence decisions. It is only by being part of a national movement, which has regional associations to provide local support, that Societies can be really effective.
Another current issue is the proposed closure of hundreds of small post offices. These are usually combined with a local shop and provide a focus for both villages and urban communities. Their loss will have a detrimental effect on the vitality of such communities and, if we really care about sustainability, should not the Civic Society movement be putting the case for their retention? Retaining the built heritage is important, but it is essential that it forms part of a thriving, self-sufficient community which is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. These are some of the challenges we face in the 21st century and we all need to work together to create a reinvigorated Civic Society movement which is seen as relevant and effective to combat them.
After half a century of success in cleaning up the mess of old industries, Littleborough is still under threat to its environment on a massive scale.
Last year Coronation Power put in a planning application for huge wind turbines on the top of the high moorland above Calderbrook. This so called "windfarm" would dominate the skyline for miles around — the overwhelming worst effects being on Littleborough, Wardle and Walsden. At the same time Coronation Power, a fledgling company with no track record in industrial construction, applied for eight more turbines at sites above Todmorden and Bacup.
Local opposition to these crude proposals led to the formation of our group "Friends of The South Pennines". Since then the group members have campaigned and submitted carefully considered reports and objections to the relevant planning departments.
Gigantic Wind Turbine — the white dot at the bottom is a van!
There are many areas of concern. Obviously the visual blight would be immense. Twelve turbines are proposed on the skyline above Littleborough — each 420 feet high (that's ¾ the height of Blackpool Tower — just think about it!). It is hard to believe but the proposed road access to this construction site would be from the M62 to Featherstall, Sun Hotel, then for 1¼ miles up the narrow B–roads of Whitelees Road and Calderbrook Road as far as St. James Church, Calderbrook. This would involve thousands of heavy lorries and concrete mixers in both directions, working six days a week for over a year. All this traffic passing two schools, the fire station and supposedly negotiating all the narrow bends and obstructions we know so well. Additionally, delivery of turbine towers and blades are scheduled on the same narrow roads on huge transporters, 150 feet long and some 14 feet wide. Pause to reflect on that and it is no surprise that people on that route are concerned for the safety of their families and property.
Objections have been made to all this and much more. Outdoor recreation for walkers, runners and horse riders would be seriously affected. Damage to grassland and peat would be extreme. Natural habitats for birds and wildlife would suffer and the construction would cause unknown changes to water supplies to local farms and houses. Concerns over flooding, especially down to Calderbrook are very real.
If this turbine station at Crook Hill is built it would form part of a visible ring of steel around these Pennine moorlands — already visible from Littleborough are the turbines at Ovenden near Hebden Bridge, Scout Moor near Norden (there will be 26 of these) and Coal Clough beyond Todmorden. Put simply, enough is enough already.
"The Friends of The South Pennines" group believes in properly considered energy production and energy saving in the UK. But land based wind turbines which are unreliable and produce a minute contribution to the nation's need for electricity are not a worthwhile part of the answer. To think so is merely a delusion and diverts attention from the real task of finding more sustainable solutions.
The latest situation in Spring 2008 is that Coronation Power has failed to supply sufficient information to satisfy Rochdale and Calderdale Planning Departments, so the company has appealed to the Government's Planning Inspectorate to intervene — which it is entitled to do. This will result in a public enquiry being held later this year, probably in Rochdale, at which the Inspector will hear evidence over several days and then make a final decision.
Hopefully there will be sufficient opportunity for groups and individuals to make their views known to the Inspector during the enquiry.
(See the Secretary's Report for the latest on the planning application).
On the 19th December 2007 I came away from the Pennines Planning Committee meeting feeling that we had won the battle and lost the war. Defeated by a system which is loaded against good planning we failed to convince the Pennines Councillors that they should reject the latest application from the owner of the land at Durn (Green Brothers old dismantling site).
With the Planning Department yet again recommending acceptance and rubbing in the threat that a refusal would lead to yet another appeal which the applicant would undoubtedly win I felt let down, as so often in the past, by the Planners who seem to have little idea about what good planning is all about.
This application went through not on its merits but on the fear imbued into the Councillors of having to pay the costs of a successful appeal; and this despite having won two previous appeals for the same site.
It could be argued that to continually batter this unfortunate developer would have lead to a more than sympathetic hearing by the Planning Inspectorate, but it could also be argued that despite his failing to persuade the same Inspectorate previously and trying again with minimal reductions in numbers and hardly any attempt to really 'fit in' with the locality, he could have fallen foul of it yet again. But the fear of any local decision being overturned is ingrained in our Councillors and is firmly reinforced by the Planners.
Had the Planners been more on our side and, more to the point, on the side of good planning for Littleborough, the developer may not have felt so encouraged to keep trying to break through the barriers put up by the government.
I find the whole affair disappointing in the extreme and it leaves me with no real hope of achieving the goal of a thriving community based on people living here, working here, shopping here and getting entertainment here.
Think of the benefit to our suffering community if the shops hereabouts could be encouraged to give a greater selection of goods at reasonable prices and to expand the numbers of them. Instead any new businesses tend to be fast food outlets, taxis and estate agents, the major requirements of the commuter society presently being created here.
Think of the benefit if most of our needs were available without having to travel. It would lead to a noticeable reduction in car journeys on our overburdened roads. You might even be able to cross the street without running or in fear of being knocked down.
Think what it would mean to community cohesion if we had a secondary school within the boundary of Littleborough. Not only would it be possible to walk to the school for many but it would mean that extra–curricular activities would take place here and not in Wardle or Milnrow or Rochdale. Many of our older schoolchildren practically leave the town in the early morning and don't get home until the evening, just like their parents!
To return to the site in question I would like to point out one or two things I find inappropriate about the application. It is for three-storey blocks of apartments and these by their very nature do not attract families for the long term, so they will probably fill with itinerant commuters who, should they eventually start a family, will want to move to other accommodation; that is if the flats get filled at all: many flats in the recently completed Gale and Whitelees Road sites appear to be permanently for sale or rent, many having been purchased in blocks by entrepreneurs keen to exploit the situation by renting them out. There will be no affordable housing on the site despite one of the claims for its 'successful' approval being that it is close to public transport which "would reduce the need to use a car". The appearance of the flats only 'tips a hat' at the locality by making the elevations visible to the road and canal in stone and the rear 'out of sight' elevations in brick: a Queen Anne front and Mary Anne behind approach which doesn't seem to realise that no elevations can truly be out of sight. The windows bear little relation in size or proportion to those in existing buildings nor to the idea that was mooted originally that they were trying to emulate the industrial building once on the site (forty-odd years ago!). The so-called Juliette balconies are just stuck–on architecture of the type I would be ashamed to attempt.
This site offers absolutely nothing for Littleborough and should never have been approved in its present form.
This is not 'sour grapes' at having lost. The first application was for 71 apartments in five– and six–storey blocks and we managed to whittle this down to 66, then 55 and finally 43 apartments, so it could be felt that we managed something, but I can't really believe that or get any satisfaction from the thought. It is common practice among developers to apply for as many dwellings as they think they can get away with. If they don't run up against any opposition they win hands down and laugh all the way to the bank. But if they do have opposition I feel sure they have a fall-back position where they are still comfortable with the large profits which can be made from housing. So did we achieve anything other than this fall-back position? Who knows except the developer?
We did manage to get some acceptance of our concerns over the appearance. We started out with what appeared to be panels of stone, brick, rendering and glass in an arbitrary array of shapes, not unlike a Klee painting. At least we now apparently have whole walls in stone.
Having gone through a year of fighting for the above we are now faced with an even worse prospect on this site. On the Durn site the original outline application showed 28 housing units: not a binding number but an apparent indication of what might be considered reasonable. Once granted the site was then sold on to a more aggressive developer who ignored such a small number of units as described above.
We met Woodford last year, at their request, to discuss their proposals for the Akzo Nobel site. We couldn't agree to their ideas simply because they took no account of the increased demands on the current infrastructure of Littleborough, least of all the road system. They nevertheless insisted that they intended to develop the land themselves and that it would be done to standards which they felt would be acceptable to us.
The Planning Committee were persuaded to allow the outline planning application which inferred that the number of houses proposed was of the order of 165.
We have now heard that Woodford have been quoted as saying that the decision to develop the site by themselves has not yet been made! So we now wait and see if, once they have cleared the site, we get what they told us or they sell on to some other developer who will not be held to any present limits on housing numbers nor will necessarily build to any reasonable local standards of design.
The whole system of so-called planning control appears to be not fit for purpose.
The Chairman suggested a month or two ago that he felt it would be an interesting exercise to open up a couple of stretches of the old canal feeder, returning these sections to their original state: the idea being that these could be attractive to tourists and possibly become a part of a heritage trail. I mentioned this to both a member of British Waterways' staff and to Keith Hallam of the Rochdale Canal Society; Keith is the organiser of the work parties which carry out the sort of necessary tasks which British Waterways often can not get round to. Both were interested in the proposition and it was suggested that a walk with members of both societies along the feeder to identify appropriate areas would be a positive first step.
Involving the Rochdale Canal Society has practical benefits as they are used to dealing with the waterways organisation and would be able to advise and accommodate the many health and safety issues which often bedevil enterprises such as this along with other problems such as those of an ecological and environmental concern.
There is no suggestion that the feeder could ever be completely reopened, but the serious lack of water to the summit level would be partially solved if water could be back-pumped from the Greenvale area, and one route for this could be the feeder which is still substantially in existence at the northern end.
Anyone interested in a bit of pick and shovel work should get in touch with Russell Johnson.
Over the last few months we have been discussing with both the Planning department and the Littleborough Historical & Archæological Society the origins of the Toll House building on the corner of Church Street and Todmorden Road.
Initially one of our committee members expressed her dismay at the unattractive appearance of the building, mainly due to the smoke staining over the last hundred years or more, a not unusual situation for most buildings in the area. However, although it was quickly established that the listed building status placed no obligation on the owner to maintain the building, the issue developed into a question as to whether it deserved such a description, not to mention the blue plaque it currently bears!
Further enquiries led many to believe that an error had been made in declaring it to have been the Toll House building for either of the turnpikes of Todmorden Road or Blackstone Edge and indeed whether it had ever been a toll house at all.
The blue plaque on the building listing the tolls
Photograph: Iain S Gerrard
To give a historical perspective on this it should be understood that until the canal came into existence the lower part of the valley was wet and boggy and the road to Todmorden was, at least in part, that of the old pack horse route which ran along the shoulder of the valley rather than on the valley floor. With the completion of the canal many of the streams and drains which fed the wetlands were collected by the canal with the result that the bottom of the valley began to dry up. This allowed the creation of a decent road where none had been possible before: Todmorden Road as we now know it. This was originally a turnpike roadway with toll houses at each end. The Steanor Bottom Toll House, still in existence and renovated by Littleborough Civic Trust in the seventies, is the northern one.
It is now felt that the provenance of the toll house at the south end of the road is in serious doubt.
Information from the Littleborough Historical & Archæological Society has given the approximate date for the erection of this building to be about the mid– to late–nineteenth century, long after the date a toll house would have been originally required for Todmorden Road turnpike (1827) and indeed after the turnpike roads were made free of tolls. This argument is not sufficient to exclude it as a toll house for Blackstone Edge turnpike but there is apparently further evidence that the house was built by Frank Shuttleworth, the first clerk to Littleborough Council, to act as offices for his architectural practice and, it is said, designed specifically to look like a toll house! There was a toll house for Todmorden Road but this was further along Todmorden Road as shown on the 1851 Ordnance Survey map.
This information has been passed to the Conservation Officer at Rochdale and we await the outcome. Some people felt that we should leave well alone rather than lose one of our heritage buildings but others, who were in the majority, felt that to have buildings incorrectly designated would devalue the listing and the blue plaque systems.
New paths under construction in the Flower Meadow, September 2007
Work has now been completed for the time being, the seeding of flowers having taken place at the end of March. There still remains the need for three or four 'kissing gates' to stop access by motor bikes and horses and these should be installed very shortly by the Local Authority which will also carry out some necessary remedial work by closing one or two gaps in the trees which if left would allow access and so render the gates practically useless. It is also planned to take measures to combat fouling by dogs.
Although none of the bulbs planted last year have flowered (which is not surprising) there has been an excellent display of daffodils. Once the field has managed to establish itself over the next couple of years there will finally be some signs erected informing the public of the purpose of the field and who contributed to its creation.
Since the success reported in the last Winter issue the applications to both Calderdale and Rochdale have now come before the appropriate planning committees. Both applications were rejected almost unanimously.
However Coronation Power, tired of waiting for a formal decision from the authorities, largely held up because of inadequate information supplied by that company, has formally appealed against the non-determination of the applications
Normally an Authority should make a decision, for or against, an application within a specified period of time. If they fail to do so without reasonable grounds for delay the applicant has the right to apply to the Secretary of State for a decision. In this case it is thought strange that this course of action should be taken as the delays appear to be pretty much of Coronation Power's own making. From my experience of seeing Coronation Power's owner performing at previous hearings of his applications it is not surprising, as I have felt that his whole approach to those who oppose his plans, including the Councillors who had to consider the pros and cons of the applications, Rossendale and Todmorden Councils, has been arrogant and condescending.
The undemocratic way that these proposals are now to be considered i.e. by the Planning Inspectorate, bypassing our own Councillors, is quite unacceptable and is further compounded by the intention of the Secretary of State to 'call in' the applications for a personal decision by her, no matter what the Inspectorate decides. She will make her decision on purely political grounds with no concern for the planning laws or the desires, clearly expressed by the local Councillors, of local people who do not wish to see their Moorland landscapes destroyed by these monstrosities.
Wind Turbines on Scout Moor from at least five miles away on the Pennine Way
Photograph: Iain S Gerrard
Just how bad the effect will be locally can be seen clearly up on the Pennine Way where the turbines on Scout Moor now dominate the skyline. The nearest of these is probably five miles away in a straight line. Those on Crook Moor will be little more than a mile away and are to be eighty feet taller!
We have recently learned of a website covering the adjoining area of Todmorden and Walsden. LCT members with internet access should find the site of great interest, as it contains a wealth of information about the area and its population past and present, including numerous photographs and links (www.todmordenandwalsden.co.uk).
Should you wish to look at this website in the future we have added the link to our links page
Whilst walking above Piethorne Reservoir in late January, a few years ago, I encountered a very unusual phenomenon in the guise of an extremely excited and exultant full–bearded fellwalker descending rapidly towards me from the direction of Ogden Edge. Fearing that either myself or my ageing lurcher bitch had committed an act of trespass or worse I quickly side stepped, but this only seemed to make him even more animated and determined to engage with me.
Without any pleasantries he demanded "have you ever seen or heard of the Brocken Spectre". With my total and complete lack of knowledge of any such thing and thinking that this may be a referral to someone, or worse still — something, from the other side, I answered in the negative.
Shaking with excitement now that he had found an ignorant victim he assured me that not only was there such a thing but that only ten minutes ago he had seen one and that it had followed him along the brow of Ogden Edge. "Forty years I have waited to see that", he said, and with that he quickly turned away.
Relieved that I and my dog had been let off, I assured him, as he sped away, that I would brave hell and high water to observe this vision of splendour so that I might gain inspiration from my witnessing of it. I instantly conjured up a skeleton clad in ragged anorak and tattered moleskin breeches draped over a stone wall, haunted and tormented by failure to see the "Brocken Spectre".
As soon as I got home I looked up the "Brocken Spectre" with some trepidation only to find that it is a phenomenon of mountain areas, so named because it was first scientifically observed at Brocken in 1780 (Brocken, being the highest peak of the Harz Mountains in East Germany). The greatly enlarged shadow of the observer accompanied by coloured rings is cast by a low sun upon a cloud bank.
But alas, on the day, by the time I breasted Ogden Edge the clouds had enveloped me in a soaking mist putting paid to any success that morning. With heavy heart I made my way down, but on reflection decided that, never mind perhaps I'll see this holy grail of geographic events another day, after all I may only have to wait another forty years.
Editor: Brian Walker