Pen Drawing of Bent House Bridge
Iain Gerrard reports on topics discussed at Committee Meetings and other relevant issues
The appeal of Renewable Energy Systems (R.E.S.) against the decision to reject their application for extra turbines by Burnley Council has been put back to late June. Apparently it clashed with another appeal they are fighting in Monmouthshire!
The rejection for finance for this project, referred to in the last newsletter, was in fact for an amount of money which The Mersey Basin Trust had to spend within the last financial year. We rejected it because of the constraints which came with the offer (short time period for one thing). Our original bid, while put back for two or three months was not affected and is still pending.
The two parcels of land to which I referred in the Winter newsletter are now, together, part of a lease from the Cricket Club, and which is now ready for signing, as soon as we have sorted other related issues which will guarantee the successful improvement of this area.
Progress has suddenly taken a leap forward and we are now in receipt of an application form, to the Township, for financial help in this matter. We have asked for quotations from local people for the repair work and these will form the basis of our application. The Committee has decided that, if and when the seat is ready, it should be relocated to a position more open than its original place, where it will be more used and less likely to be vandalised again.
The area in front of the Wheatsheaf has been proposed and we have made contact with the Highways Department to ensure they will have no objections. They have already replied to say that in principal they haven’t. Following their helpful comments regarding the future responsibility of the seat we also intend to apply to the Township for it to take over the responsibility for the seat, once the repairs have been carried out.
Because of the protracted nature of all these goings-on it will be September before the Pennine Township will be able to consider our application.
A brief reference in the Township Committee minutes alerted us to a new initiative to ‘improve’ the traffic problems in Littleborough Square. It seemed to indicate that consideration was being given to a pelican crossing being introduced and changes made to the mini-roundabout.
Concerned at what might be contemplated and carried out, in our name, we wrote to the Highways Department asking that we be informed when the consultation exercise, also mentioned in the report, was to be carried out. We also put forward a brief outline of what we felt might be an improvement of real proportions for the town centre. This involved a special zone, in effect the pedestrianisation of, Church Street from the traffic lights at the junction with Todmorden Road through to its westerly end. We felt that motorised traffic would be better catered for if it were kept moving, albeit slowly (maximum speeds – really! – of 15/20 m.p.h., rather than being made to stop and start even more than as at present which we felt can lead to driver frustration.
Although this is the A58 trunk road, new thinking is desperately needed in such situations, pedestrians need to be able to walk about more freely without being in constant fear from moving vehicles and if they (the pedestrians) are given priority this might be achieved. What do you think?
We have had no reply to date from the Highways Department.
Our Chairman, John Street, has spent a considerable amount of time recently, preparing our application for funding for this project. This has now been completed and was sent off, to the Local Heritage Initiative for their consideration, in the second week of April. I understand it will be a month or two before we get a reply. If we do get the go-ahead for this we will need help from any members who are interested in the possibilities inherent in such a scheme. It may be that you would be interested but don’t wish to commit yourself to many hours work. Don’t let that put you off coming forward as, say, one hour per week could be useful. Contact one of the Committee members for more information.
Rae Street has been in contact with Rochdale M.B.C. recently asking for the positioning or replacement of trees in various spots within the area. So it’s good to report that they have planted two on Railway Street (bet you haven’t noticed!), one on the corner of Lodge Street and Victoria Street to replace the one lost a couple of years ago, and one or two on Barnes Meadow.
We don’t intend to stop here, as you will read in the article elsewhere in this issue by Rae, and as referred to in the last newsletters Talking Points.
We have had a meeting with Rob Burnell, the Authority’s arboriculturalist, who was helpful with his advice and has suggested that he could be helpful in a more practical way, once we have got our ideas up and rolling. Preliminary work required, and this is something all members can help with, will include: identifying patches or areas of land where trees may be sited, finding the owners of the land and applying for funding to various bodies for funds to carry out this work.
The types of areas we envisage are:
Suggestions for such places are more than welcome. Initially it doesn’t matter who owns the land although if you know the owner(s) we would like to have that information also.
To date we have had two suggestions (at the A.G.M.) a replacement for the ‘Big Tree’ at Shore and the trees which were lost from the embankment during the work on the Hollingworth Lake refurbishment. This last, unfortunately, has already had a probable thumbs down; the reason for their removal was apparently because of concerns from dam experts on the long term damage by trees to the dam itself.
Chris, who has been our Minutes Secretary and Newsletter Editor for a few years now has, sadly, had to resign from the Committee due, among other things, to his work commitments. As a positive influence in debates and a willing worker on the two particular jobs, which he undertook so well, he’ll be missed to an exceptional degree. He is remaining in the Society (he hasn’t suddenly lost interest in the many issues we campaign for and against) and is still willing to help where he can although on a less official basis. Our website which, while beyond accessing for many of our members at this time, is an extremely good ‘first try’ by any standards, is entirely down to Chris. Indeed it’s fair to say that there isn’t anyone else in the Society at the moment who could have done it so well, if at all! Our Chairman has written to Chris expressing our appreciation of his work, but it’s nice to record it in the Newsletter as well.
Iain S Gerrard
We have just had our Annual General Meeting which both looked backwards and to the future.
Last year was very good in most ways; financially we ended up in a secure situation and in terms of what we had achieved there were plenty of reasons to be pleased. In summary we had finished one major project ‘The Book’, done a wide range of the things we do every year and prepared major bids for money for two projects in the immediate future. Finally the A.G.M. was made much more enjoyable by a lively presentation by Richard Catlow, perhaps better known to most of you as the Editor in Chief of the Rochdale Observer Group.
We will write more seriously about our future projects in the coming months but I will ask all our members to just look at some of the developments around us such as we see at Hebden Bridge. Today it is a bustling, interesting and self confident place – but any of our older members will tell you that 40 years ago it was a tired, dirty and demonstrably declining mill town. A group of individuals decided it was too good to lose and built up a structure and the will to turn it into a very attractive area where people want to live and work.
Now Littleborough’s time has come when it too must fight for its identity and set about building a meaningful future. It all starts with believing that if we try we can do it. At the heart of any plan must be growth, development and prosperity based on an agenda controlled by our local community and structured to be successful when you bid for significant sums of money. In doing this there are many examples to hearten us, but it does not mean that we must lose or destroy all the reasons that make us love the place.
To achieve these objectives we must also reject the feeling that ‘They’, of all kinds, will not let us develop our own patch. The funding structures in our country are changing, there is a nearly strident demand that development should be based on community sanctioned plans and with this sort of focus we can expect much more support. For example we had considerable help in the last year from our local authority. Our councillors are of course the first point of entry when we want things; but there also appears to be real evidence that the township structures are working. Individual officers are willingly supporting your society in initiatives such as tree planting, the Town Design Statement, planning initiatives, conservation of our major river valley and much more. There are exciting developments that we can share in.
I hope you enjoy your membership in the coming year. New members are always welcome and please comment on any aspect of the work we do, or things you would like us to tackle.
TREES ARE ESSENTIAL FOR OUR WELL BEING
Not only do trees give us pleasure to look at through the seasons, but they are an essential part of a balanced ecology. For example, trees draw carbon dioxide CO2 from the air as they grow. Although it is difficult to make a precise formula, planting 3-5 trees will ‘fix’ about one tonne of CO2 over time. Planting trees has other benefits too. Trees purify the air we breathe and nourish the soil. They provide shade and shelter and a habitat for birds, insects and a diversity of plants, mosses and fungi.
The denudation of the upper Mersey basin, of which we are part, allows increasing erosion of the soil cover which in turn gives faster and deeper rivers at flood times, severe erosion downstream and more widespread flooding. The latter is due in part to the choking of natural escape routes with silt. We need to look to ways in which we can halt this dangerous cycling and tree planting has an important role to play.
The CIVIC TRUST AND TREES
Littleborough Civic Trust has, since its beginning in the early 70’s, actively promoted the planting and care for trees. In 1973 there was a national scheme under the slogan ‘Plant a Tree in 73’ in which we took part. By the time the next year came round with its new slogan, ‘Plant some More in 74’, we were well into the swing. We asked every church or chapel in Littleborough to plant a tree which we with the help of the local authority would provide. We ourselves planted a flowering cherry on Station Approach which gave enormous pleasure for many years. Sadly, many have been lost either because the chapel or church closed or because of redevelopment. But a few survive. This spring the flowering cherry was still looking very healthy which was planted by the congregation of the, still active, United Reform Church on Victoria Street.
In 1976 Joel Barnett, our MP then and now Lord Barnett and still our patron, planted an oak tree outside the newly opened Visitor Centre for Hollingworth Lake Country Park.
Then in the 80’s there were two major initiatives. The first was the establishment of Barker’s Wood, which Mrs Barker suggested be carried out in memory of her late husband, in the area behind her house. This wood is now flourishing and gives a much needed amenity to the area. Mrs Barker who has been a for long time supporter of the Civic Trust has now been made an Honorary Life Member of the Trust.
The second was the establishment of the Tree Nursery, set up with grants from the then British Gas, with the local company, Fothergill and Harvey (as it then was) providing the land. The idea behind the nursery was to provide a bank of ‘native’ species of trees, for example, hawthorn, birch and alder, to be given away to be planted within Littleborough and to increase our tree cover. It was enormous hard physical work, but the nursery was established and trees given out. However the volunteers who had maintained the plot moved away from the area, so we are now left with a most pleasant copse.
We have had many trees and bushes planted around the Coach House. We shared in the original planting scheme (carried out by Impact, a community environment scheme of the time) and had the rowans planted and the surrounding shrubs. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Civic Trust, in 1996, we planted a ‘red’ hawthorn which is looking very healthy now. You can see the plaque on the Coach House wall which was put up at the time.
Through the years, we have supported Tree Preservation Orders, tried to preserve trees which were threatened and looked for sites to plant new ones. As recently as 1997, we had a medlar planted in the Square, imported from Italy by our then MEP, Glyn Ford. And at the same time, our MP, Lorna Fitzsimons, planted a winter flowering cherry on the same site.
We have always had cooperation from the Rochdale MBC, both officers and elected members, with planting of trees. During the last two years they have planted a red sycamore, two alders and a flowering cherry.
FOLLOWING THE TRADITION
Littleborough has a long and honourable history of planting trees. Back in 1901 there was a Littleborough Tree Planting Society whose activities were recorded in the Rochdale Observer. Long before the establishment of the Civic Trust, in 1919, the Beautiful Littleborough Society was established with the encouragement and foresightedness of Gordon Harvey, MP, and Fred Jackson, local historian.. The founders of the society also loved trees; indeed Gordon Harvey wanted to make Littleborough look like the Lake District. He had the area behind his house, Town House, landscaped and planted with a beech wood – ‘beautiful’ to this day. He also wanted trees alongside in adjoining fields, lining every road leading into Littleborough. This he achieved with the help of all his many factory owning colleagues. Littleborough had an abundance of textile mills in those days. It was those very mills which made it difficult for trees to flourish. But the Edwardian tree lovers found a solution: the Manchester poplar. It would grow quickly into a handsome large tree and would withstand pollution.
Now we have reached a time when we really need to look at the whole of the town and its tree coverage. We need to assess the problems with ‘old’ trees, look how we can replant and work out how we can increase plantings both within new developments and in the town generally. All of this will help improve the environment and help further plans for regeneration and increasing trade for local shops and businesses.
The Manchester poplar, unfortunately for us today, has a limited life – about 70 years on average - after that they begin to rot and die. Just recently in storms in October 2000, two were blown down in the row alongside the school, Townhouse Road, near the Cricket Club. There are rows all over; down by the brook, along Todmorden Road, Featherstall Road, and many more.
Another danger to trees in the extensive new residential housing developments which have been carried out during the last ten years within Littleborough. Despite the vigilance of local residents and the Local Authority, some trees inevitably have to be cut down and very few spaces can be found for new plantings. We need to plan now to replace these trees. We need to try to encourage more planting of ‘forest’ trees all over the borough, but especially adjacent to the large scale housing developments.
If we don’t tackle these problems now, we will never be a ‘leafy suburb’ and even less will we be a small town which, in Gordon Harvey’s dream, ‘looks like the Lake District.’
The Trust are therefore proposing to set up a TREE PROJECT. The aim is
For this we need your help. Please let us know:
*which trees in your area you value
*any trees you think are likely to need to be cut down and why
*any suggestions you have for new plantings or a new wood such as was given by Mrs Barker
Finally we have set up a ‘tree’ account.. If you send donations we will ensure that the money will be spent only on the tree project
TO LAUNCH THE TREE PROJECT WE WILL HOLD AN OPEN EVENING :
TUESDAY 17 JULY
7.30 PM MEETING ROOM COACH HOUSE
ILLUSTRATED TALK WITH SLIDES
COUNTRYSIDE OFFICER RMBC (HOPWOOD NATURE RESERVE)
PUT THE DATE IN YOUR DIARY AND COME ALONG FOR AN INTERESTING EVENING
Many of you may not know, but my husband Iain (Secretary) and myself live overlooking the Rochdale Canal in Littleborough. It was a ‘dream come true’ when we found our cottage, since when our enjoyment of this area has not diminished. We are also members of Rochdale Canal Society and therefore have taken great interest in the re-opening of the canal. We have for many years holidayed on the canals in narrowboats and in that time have done many circuits. One which we have not undertaken,obviously because it was not open, was the circle which would take us on the Huddersfield Narrow/Broad Canal and onto the Rochdale Canal, (which would take us past our own house.) It may not be long though!
Last week, (early May), however, we were delighted to see a boat coming down the canal to go to Littleborough. Iain got first taste of the boat at Punch Bowl Lock. As it came through this lock, because of some problem, the canal overflowed onto the towpath. Although our two Westies (Dolly and Daisy) managed to run ahead of the water Iain was not so lucky. He came back home to empty his walking boots and remove his mid-calf wet trousers.
When the boat eventually got to Pikehouse Lock, where we live, I was ready and waiting to help with the lock. (I was getting withdrawal symptoms owing to not having booked a canal holiday this year.) While the boat was in the lock I chatted to the lady on the boat. (She was steering while the rest of the family did the ‘hard work’ of opening/closing and emptying/filling the locks etc.) She told me they had not originally intended coming onto the Rochdale but because of flooding where they had intended going they had decided to give the Rochdale ‘a go’. Duly the lock was emptied (it took some time as the gates were leaking), she tried to move but the engine cut out. It wouldn’t start again and so with me as a willing helper we manually hauled her out of the lock and pulled her into the side, by Pikehouse Bridge, where she was moored to enable an inspection.
The discovery was made of a plank of wood into which the propeller had become embedded. Although some attempts were made to loosen it with the lump hammers provided on these boats it would not come loose. ‘ To the rescue’, I ran back to the house to get our saw and Iain. It took some time and a lot of effort but eventually the wooden plank was released. (I took it back to our house for eventual burning on our stove.) The family went on their way once more, going into Littleborough (for shopping), and after turning round making their way back. They told us it was a very beautiful stretch of canal and they were very glad they had come along it. They also mentioned a very useful little shopping centre in which they wished to have had more time to spend. If we, as the Civic Trust, can maintain and enhance Littleborough over the years we may be able to attract many more canal visitors.
My thoughts at this time are, if ever we do get the chance to ‘do the Rochdale Canal’ and come past our own house, to watch out for planks of wood especially at Pikehouse Lock. (Although if anything like this did happen at least we would have recovery facilities nearby!!)
I don't like shopping... you can call me quirky but I have a claim to fame in that I have never been to Trafford Park, Meadowhall, Metro Centre or any of the like and I've never been to an Ikea. I intend to resist any effort to encourage me in that direction as long as I possibly can. I just do not understand the need to travel miles along a motorway, queue to park and then walk for ages around masses of shops which can be found in many largish town centre high streets (and why is it that folk do not object to walking miles around these homogeneous soulless, air less shopping centres or pushing trolleys up and down seemingly miles of Supermarket aisles but do object to walking 100 yards from a car park in the small town centres?? or am I missing the point somewhere?).
I read an article in the paper this weekend which spoke of the state our English Heritage and of our quaint town centres - with their Starbucks, Gap, Woolworths, Dorothy Perkins and MacDonalds. The monotony created by the big Corporations is making many of our larger town centres suffer from the same disease as the out of town Centre or Retail Park so in our household we try to do our bit to encourage diversity.
OK, being in full time employment and considering myself fairly busy, supermarkets can be convenient for some goods but most Saturdays will find us in our local town, Hebden Bridge, doing our shopping. We have even been known to cycle down to Hebden, park the bikes in the cycle lockers in the car park, potter round and cycle back with panniers loaded, though the ride back up Cragg Vale can be somewhat ambitious for the faint hearted!
To myself, shopping in Hebden is not the normal, stereo-typed, fraught, exasperating shopping experience. For instance, the butchers have more choice, offering bespoke joints and they're often cheaper than similar goods in the Supermarkets plus the meat isn't that unhealthy brilliant red (in one of the butchers' shops there are even pictures of the cattle in their fields, though this is possibly getting a little too much like 'pick your own' for my liking). Also it can be quite informative (did you know there's more fat in the meat when the cattle go out to new grass).
The bread and cheese shop is a delight (as is choosing the odd bottle of wine there) and local bakers add to the aromatic splendour. A trip round the Charity shops can provide the odd paperback, T-shirt, skirt or whatever as well as a salve to the conscience. The clothes shops offer styles different from the normal chain store type. Apologies to those shops not mentioned but this is just a sample of the delights which can still be found in many local small towns.
So many people are missing out by not using our local shops. Supermarkets are a chore tied in with trolleys, queues and cars. Local shops can be amazingly quick as well as being helpful and informative and have the very important added bonus of putting more profits back into the community. With their range of services and goods they prove that diversity is a healthy principle, town centres are enriched by it. I'm not saying go there on your bike, you could always catch the local bus, you can even go by car (though if you are able bodied, please be a little more open minded about not being able to park outside your shop or even about having to pay for parking - public transport is a lot more environmentally friendly). If you are interested in conserving a little English culture this is definitely a very pleasant and easy way to go about it.
We must all be concerned at the continuing growth of traffic and the poor performance of a small but significant number of motorists. I reported in the last newsletter on our alternative proposals to those outlined by the Council's engineers. We subsequently heard of similar proposals for West View and wrote to the Council on these in similar vein to our first letter. We have now received replies to both letters, meanwhile the promised details of the Town Centre proposals have been published and the townspeople have indeed been consulted.
We did not find the replies encouraging. They included the inevitable excuse of lack of money, but also seemed to show an inability to see beyond the prescribed solutions put out from central government. Briefly we did not object in principle to the objectives of the proposals but did have differing views on the methods. The proposals essentially rely on road bumps to slow traffic and multi-coloured tarmacadam to differentiate the usage of areas of roadway. Some of us consider the road bumps to be potentially dangerous in themselves and distinctly unpleasant to drive over. Clearly this is the objective; but most of us are motorists as well as pedestrians, and many fail to see why driving should be made unpleasant even for law-abiding citizens! Some residents also object to the cartoon colours of road surface because of the disturbing visual impact that these will have, particularly in and adjacent to Littleborough Square which is in a conservation area. We have suggested that, in the case of West View, a much pleasanter and effective solution would be to introduce chicanes into the line of the roadway along with the use of modern setts.
We hope you like it. But if you don’t the solution is in your own hands. This is your Newsletter, so write an article for it!
Send your answers to me sideways.
Editor: Iain Spencer Gerrard