National News

News Items from 'Your Voice', the Civic Voice newsletter.

Neighbourhood Planning

Civic societies have long been calling for a greater say on planning decisions and for local councils to take more notice of their ambitions for their area. The Government’s Localism Bill introduces new rights for community groups and parish & town councils to do this through neighbourhood planning. As the most numerous participants in the country, civic societies have indicated their strong interest in the proposals, while also highlighting some of the flaws. There is widespread agreement that little will happen without civic societies and other community groups having support to take advantage of the new neighbourhood planning rights.

Civic Voice is planning to offer what support it can and to help with this it is applying for a Government grant to supply civic societies and other community groups with the help and advice they need to make a difference on planning issues. This is being prepared in partnership with the Architecture Centre Network whose members provide expert help and support across the country.

See Russell Johnson’s article below for news on how the localism bill presents an opportunity to restore local government to Littleborough.

Future of Heritage Open Days

Heritage Open Days was initiated in 1994 by the Civic Trust and core funding was provided by English Heritage between 2001 and 2009. It is the country’s largest voluntary cultural event, involving over a million visitors with over 40,000 volunteers supporting nearly 4,500 events.

Over 100 civic societies are known to participate and many more work with local partners, such as local authorities. English Heritage took on responsibility following closure of the Civic Trust and will run the 2011 event. It has issued a tender for organisations to take on the national co-ordination role with funding available for four years. This will mean Heritage Open Days needs to fund itself nationally in 2015 and beyond. Locally, we are already aware the some local authorities and other funders are withdrawing and many civic societies are looking at what extra role they can play.

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Local News

Littleborough for Littleborough

Since 1974 when Littleborough was ‘stolen’ by Rochdale and came under the auspices of R.M.B.C all the Rates – or whatever name they chose to give them – have been swallowed up by other areas, with very little return for Littleborough.

Anyone who lived here under Littleborough Urban District Council will tell you that things were better then, bins were emptied, even newspapers were collected for recycling, roads were gritted in winter, and we had secondary education for our children. The list could go on, but space has to be limited.

So, on Thursday the 27th of January a group of people met with a view to changing all that, and a Littleborough for Littleborough campaign was launched. Enquiries are being made about how Littleborough can become a District Council, under rules laid down by Parliament, and with the passing of the Localism bill later this year, the transition is thought to be achievable. Further meetings are planned.

Russell Johnson

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Update on Wind Turbines at Crook Hill

The story so far...

Coronation Power’s application to erect giant wind turbines was refused by all relevant Local Authorities but it won an appeal last year. However Coronation Power must draw up and gain agreement for a Private Water Protection Plan and gain permission to build on Common Land. This involves consent to deregistration and agreement to provide alternative land. The enquiry on common land was in July 2010 and a decision is still pending.

Currently Todmorden Moor residents have compiled a massive amount of information and worked tirelessly to reference and interpret documents which cast doubt on the ownership of Todmorden Moor. This would invalidate any attempts to change common land rights.

And now...

In the last few weeks Coronation Power have had surveyors up at Calderbrook to assess the access route onto Crook Hill and the outcome seems to be that this route is not suitable for the heavy plant delivery vehicles. Now Coronation Power is lodging an application for a new access route from Shawforth, probably up the steep tracks previously used for quarry traffic. This application will involve Rossendale Council. The reasons behind this application are unknown and puzzling.

In another strange twist to the tale, there now appears to be an additional planning application to the original Crook Hill application with access via Calderbrook Road. Coronation Power seem to want wider land strips here for their access to the moor.

It has been suggested that the Planning Inspectorate has caused a lot of problems by agreeing to what was an inadequate application in the first place. If Coronation Power are not going to use the access route from Calderbrook Road we need to know if the Common Land deregistration relevant for that access should be allowed to go ahead. It is possible that if Coronation Power wanted to go with another access proposal they would have to re-apply for commons consent and would probably be required to re-dedicate the land taken out of common following the first application.

It is clear that our battle to keep wind turbines off Crook Moor will be a long one, so Watch This Space...

Tony Smith & Margaret Edwards

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South Pennines Association

On Saturday, 29th January, I attended the South Pennines Association meeting at Birchcliffe, Hebden Bridge. I was accompanied by Margaret Edwards. The meeting confirmed that the Association, as it is currently constituted, is in decline and needs reviving. It is hoped that a new organisation representing voluntary and non-statutory bodies will be able to have a stronger voice when decisions are made about the South Pennines.

Some preparatory work has been accomplished but it is now hoped to draw attention to this new venture at an event on April 9th at the Birchcliffe Centre, Hebden Bridge. Many volunteers working on archæology and other projects are expected to attend. For more details on this event, please contact me or Margaret.

This may provide the LCT for another opportunity to take part in the development of the South Pennines.

Don Pickis

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Follow up meeting for Pennine Prospects

As I reported in the last Newsletter, I spent a day at the Pennine Prospects conference in October. On Saturday 27th November, I attended the follow-up meeting. It was well attended with people from the Saddleworth area, Preston, Groundwork Trust and Wildlife organisations. We reviewed the history and development of the Pennine Prospects Organisation and the availability of funding for the South Pennines area.

We discussed the boundaries of the South Pennines area, which may be described as roughly comprising the area bounded by Ilkley Moor; the rural edge of Bradford; Halifax; Sowerby Bridge; Saddleworth; the edge of Oldham; Denshore; Littleborough; Todmorden; Cliviger; Bacup; Rossendale; Pendle and Trawden.

At present Pennine Prospects has a range of funding, a significant portion coming from the European Union and Heritage Lottery funds. This has enabled the development of several heritage and tourism projects in the area.

It was useful to exchange ideas with other areas and to view future developments from a wider South Pennine perspective. It was felt that we should revive a more active non-statutory group of interested people and groups which will feed ideas into Pennine Prospects. In order to regenerate this group it was decided to hold a conference in spring 2011 which, it is hoped, will address shared issues. The Conference will hopefully be a vehicle for formulating clearer objectives and targets.

Don Pickis

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Secretary's Notes

First, could I introduce myself as the Acting Secretary and say that I hope to fulfil the duties to the best of my ability. With all other members of the Littleborough Civic Trust I would like to thank my predecessor Iain Gerrard for his unstinting work and endeavours.

Although I have lived in Littleborough for over thirty years and brought up my family here, it is only since becoming semi-retired that I have been able to become involved with Trust.

Our little town is a truly unique place. Littleborough has so many assets, set in the Pennines, near to Hollingworth Lake, with its canal and wonderful old stone buildings. We are so fortunate enjoying such wonderful countryside but also being only a short rail journey from the centre of Manchester. There is a temptation to become too nostalgic; Littleborough is a living, changing place and if we are to protect all its advantages we must also be clear about the need to adapt, change and respond to future challenges.

Littleborough is no longer the self contained community of earlier decades when we had a full range of local shops, pubs, churches and chapels, cinemas and places of employment. A local secondary school meant that young people grew up knowing each other. We cannot turn the clock back and in truth few would wish to do so.

So what of the future? Littleborough now has many characteristics of a dormitory town, with a morning exodus by train or road. It was never so urgent that local people have the opportunity to debate the future of our community. Sadly our monthly meetings are witness to the fact that few people are willing to leave their homes and spend an evening discussing Civic matters. We must create new ways of gathering opinion and of communicating; maybe the updated Littleborough Civic Trust website is a first step

Littleborough Library

Amongst the current challenges are the cutbacks in local authority services. The beautiful Carnegie Library may become a victim of money-saving measures. It has been said that new technologies are making libraries redundant; however few who visit regularly and see so many people enjoying its facilities and excellent friendly service would support this stance. Along with the library, the future of Hare Hill House itself is under question.

Opportunities

We have many wonderful achievements to celebrate but must look to the future and grasp opportunities if we are to ensure that Littleborough will be a fit and happy place for our children and grandchildren. I would argue that we cannot work alone, only by reaching out to the community, working with local councillors, officials, other organisations and with volunteers can we protect the wonderful Pennine town which is Littleborough.

A recent development has been the formation of Civic Voice (www.civicvoice.org.uk), a new revitalised national organisation which is able to speak on behalf of the many local civic societies across the country. On a personal basis, I have been impressed by the professionalism of Civic Voice workshops and their ability to attract high calibre speakers.

Yet another positive development is the possibility of a new organisation to promote the South Pennines. Some of you may recall the campaign in the 1970s to obtain National Park designation for the area. This proposal has been abandoned, but it did lead to the formation of a number of organisations which support the well being of this important part of the Pennines. Currently we have the South Pennine Association (SPA) representing voluntary groups and Pennine Prospects which has been extremely successful in obtaining European funding (see above for the latest updates on the activities of these groups from Don Pickis).

Pennine Prospects has an impressive catalogue of achievements including stone wall restoration, recovery projects for wildlife habitats especially the twite, archæological work at Castleshaw, sustainable tourism and a new form of orienteering called “geocaching”. Much of this work is done through volunteers and has provided a real opportunity to revitalise the South Pennine Association giving a stronger voice to the many small community and voluntary groups in the South Pennines.

Change is invariably uncomfortable but it can lead to real opportunities. Littleborough Civic Trust intends to play a full part in this new movement.

Margaret Edwards

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Hollingworth Lake Country Park

As most of our members know, the Country Park was a Littleborough Civic Trust initiative.

Why? Then as now commentators might be heard to say that it had been used as a recreation area since Victorian times, when it was known by local mill workers as the Weighvers’ Seaport. Indeed my own father, who worked in the famous Black Dyke Mill, in Queensbury in Yorkshire, could remember mill outings in a ‘chara’ (coach).

But by the late 60s, and with the increase in the number of car owners, there were severe problems with access to the Lake. On sunny days, there could be gridlock as cars could, then, drive right round the Lake and at the same time cars would park along the banks. Further, the wooded Ealees valley was the town rubbish dump where on windy days bags and rubbish floated in the air.

We had heard of the new designation ‘Country Park’ and we thought if this was established for Hollingworth Lake, funding could be obtained, staff could be employed and the whole area improved. We worked hard on a report, which was submitted in 1972, with contributions from all the Lake users, residents, and a core writing team.

We succeeded, but not without hitches. When the man from the Countryside Commission arrived from the south) to inspect walking along the dam, he commented, ‘how can you have a Country Park? You can see so many mill chimneys from here’. The reply from Don Pickis was, ‘That is the point’ we wanted to provide more opportunities for everyone – families, old and young, fit and those with ability problems – to enjoy the countryside, exercise and fun among the Pennine hills.

Achievements, with the cooperation of the former Greater Manchester County Council and Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, over the 30 years include the Visitor Centre, the Pavilion Café, development of the Nature Reserve, care for plants and migrant birds, (what excitement there is too when we have a rare visitor!), tree plantings; tidying; constant battles with litter. Vehicles, except for permit holders, were banned from around the Lake.

Here we must pay tribute not only to residents and volunteers, but the Council staff who have worked as rangers over the years. They have put so much dedicated work into the ‘countryside’ aspects of the Lake. They have not only planted trees but run courses on woodland skills; they have developed exhibitions and organised activities at the Visitor Centre. Very importantly, they have supported the playgrounds and activities for children.

In February, LCT organised an Open Forum on the future of the Country Park, as part of the year’s events programme. It attracted about 40 people, including residents, users, rangers and friends, who really care about the Park. The Park, as an entity, now welcomes thousands of visitors a year, which can only be of benefit to the town, not only providing fresh air and exercise (and isn’t that need now more than ever for all of us, especially children?) for those in the immediate area, but across the north west, not to mention tourists and occasionally foreign visitors.

Lakeside walk by Lake Bank leading to Kiosk and shops.

Photograph by Russell Johnson

In these times of extreme constraints on local authority spending, it essential that our communities build on what is best and continue to develop the area – because there is much to do.

Walkers need to be segregated from vehicles along Rakewood Road; more events need to be organised, more educational initiatives, especially on the abundant industrial heritage in the vicinity of the Lake. And, of course, though the Lake Bank is not the total of the Country Park, (the areas around the Lake, looked after by the Rangers, are relatively litter free) we do need more ideas for reducing the litter on that busy area - often the first port of call for visitors.

At the time of writing (Feb 2011) we still to have Rangers based at the Lake which is all to the good. We also now have a well established, but relatively new, Friends of the Lake, who have been able to secure funding for the sensory garden and the new playground (‘enviro gym’ to the authorities) for children on the far side of the Lake – so much enjoyed that adults have been seen winging round and now there will be this year a ‘Trim Trail’ for adults.

Hopefully if we can all work together we will be able to not only retain our wonderful Pennine Country Park but develop and improve it.

Rae Street

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Editor: Brian Walker