National News


Civic Trust Denounces Government Housing Plans

The Civic Trust (the umbrella body for local organisations such as the LCT) has slammed the Government's Planning for Housing Provision consultation paper, produced by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, as 'wholly unrealistic'.

The consultation paper outlines Government proposals for improving the supply of housing through the planning system. It is particularly concerned with ensuring an adequate supply of land for house building.

'This will not solve our housing shortage,' said Dame Jennifer Jenkins, chair of the Trust's policy committee, 'nor will it provide the range of housing needed, and it will contribute to urban and rural environmental damage.'

The consultation paper also invoked more critical responses from civic societies than any consultation with which the Civic Trust has dealt in recent years.

The assumption that the free market is capable of providing everyone with a decent affordable home goes against all the evidence, the Trust warned. Housing is constrained by the limited supply of land, and new developments by their environmental impact.

It feels a major increase in rented and shared equity schemes is essential if housing needs are to be met. And, it says, there is no evidence to back up the Government's assertion that the planning system is to blame for the current housing shortage.

The trust also criticised the paper for apparently being written with the South East of England in mind, ignoring the very different needs of other regions. The policy of demolishing existing houses, which may currently be neglected but could easily be improved, was also commented on.

The Trust urged the Government to acknowledge that there will be an increase in urban density, and that this can be achieved without a dramatic increase in high-rise building.

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The Night Time Economy

Following on from the article in the last issue of the Newsletter about the 2003 Licensing Act, we would like to consider broader issues by looking at a study commissioned by the Civic Trust into what they term the Night Time Economy.

A study of national operators representing around 17,500 evening and night-time pubs, clubs, theatres, galleries and supermarkets - commissioned by the Civic Trust and carried out by the University of Westminster (Central Cities Institute) - shows that operators don't think the 2003 Licensing Act will solve binge drinking and other problems associated with the evening economy.

They feel that government needs to do more to make town and city centres safe, accessible and appealing. The survey indicates a reluctance by the industry to shoulder responsibility for the problems or to commit time and money to making things better.

The evening and late night economy includes a wide range of leisure and cultural attractions and entertainment from cinema to sports, restaurants, pubs and discos. Evening and late night shopping is also becoming more common. In some town and city centres the streets are busier after midnight than during the day. Meanwhile there is a trend towards town centre living, in loft apartments, above the shop, or in purpose built blocks, whilst some centres have long-established residential areas close by.

The Civic Trust broadly welcomes the trend towards mixed uses in town and city centres and towards a more "continental style" living with life after hours, instead of bleak and desolate streets. Its concern is to create a healthy balance of mixed uses and an environment in which all ages may enjoy the range of attractions our centres have to offer without fear or intimidation and without diminishing the amenity of others.

In the current (final) year of its research, the Trust is taking a longer view of what we want town and city centres to be like in the future, what range of attractions should be on offer into the evening and at night and for whom. This is against the background that many people are deterred by the risk of crime and disorder, many public services currently cease well before closing time, most public buildings and shops close at 5 or 6pm, the choice of entertainment is often limited and largely alcohol-related, whilst the cost of a good night out is beyond the means of many consumers.

What do you think about the provision of local amenities, especially in the evenings? Many individuals and organisations seem to believe that people, particularly the young, turn to a boozy night out because there are no alternatives. There has been much in the media, local and national, about social problems such as binge drinking, but most of it is negative. What can we do that is more positive? The Town Design Statement has some suggestions for Littleborough, including a drop-in centre and internet café.

Please write and let us have your views and suggestions (see the note at the end of the newsletter about readers' letters).

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A New Tool To Fight Against Clutter

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has recently produced a Best Practice Guide on the use of Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act to clean up our neighbourhoods. This document brings to light a powerful tool for communities in the fight to maintain quality public spaces.

The Town and Country Planning Act of 1990 gives power to Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to require property owners to clean up sites or buildings that have been neglected or are visually offensive in general. Section 215 of this Act gives the LPA the authority to serve a notice to individuals in possession of unsightly properties to "clean up their acts." The notice details steps to be undertaken and a deadline for completion.

In case of non-compliance with the notice, the LPA has the authority to undertake the necessary work to remedy the problem and recover costs incurred under Section 219 of the Act.

According to the ODPM in its report, the legislation's impact has been limited by its infrequent use by LPAs and their inexperience, not because the legislation is in any way flawed. For example, some LPAs may not be aware that Section 215 applies not only to land, since the definition of "land" includes buildings as well.

The Government intends this legislation to contribute to its wider goal of creating sustainable communities, and as such, it cites examples of LPAs that have been successful in using Section 215 as a tool in regeneration. Apparently, Section 215 has been used effectively in cases of unsightly town centre shop frontages, vacant industrial lots, and derelict buildings.

The moral of this story is that Section 215 is a little known, but potentially powerful catalyst for change in enhancing the character of our communities.

Copies of the ODPM's publication, The Town and Country Planning Act of 1990, Section 215, Best Practice Guidance (January 2005), which includes further technical information about the legislation and case studies of successful applications of Section 215, can be obtained either at the ODPM's website, www.odpm.gov.uk, or by telephoning (0870) 1226 236.

From the newsletter of the Yorkshire and Humberside Association of Civic Societies.

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Local News


Town Design Statement Launched

Left: John Kay (Chairman of the Steering Group), Paul Rowen MP, Don Pickis (Chairman of Littleborough Civic Trust).
Right: Paul Rowen speaking at the Launch

The Littleborough Town Design Statement (TDS) has been launched and is now publicly available. The Statement is the result of more than four years' work by the LCT and other local organisations, including the Littleborough Historical and Archaeological Society and Rochdale Council.

Rochdale's MP Paul Rowen was a special guest at the recent launch party, and said: "Littleborough is a fantastic place and this is a fantastic document. It sets out strong principles for the area, which is why the council was so keen to adopt it".

The Design Statement is accompanied by the Littleborough Heritage Statement prepared by the Archaeological Society, which provides a fascinating survey of Littleborough's heritage in terms of culture, history, landscape and buildings.

These beautifully produced and illustrated documents will provide fascinating reading in the long winter evenings for anyone interested in Littleborough's past and future. Copies can be obtained from George Kelsall's bookshop, the Coach House and Littleborough Library at the price of £3 for the two statements (on paper or CD).

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Chairman's Report on the Littleborough Town Design Statement

At a Civic Trust committee meeting held in the summer of 2001 John Street brought to our attention a Village Design Statement for Haworth and suggested that the Civic Trust should undertake a similar exercise for Littleborough. By chance we discovered that Ilkley had completed a similar exercise and were about to launch their publication. John and I were invited to the Ilkley launch and came away confident that Littleborough Civic Trust could produce a Design Statement for our own locality.

LCT Chairman Don Pickis Speaking at the TDS Launch

To be formally approved by the Local Heritage Initiative scheme and to qualify for Heritage Lottery funding a Design Statement must meet two criteria. It should reveal the town's distinctive character and heritage and with the support of local people and the planning authority aim to help manage change so that new development where approved respects and contributes to local character and identity rather than erode it. Further the Statement must be written by members of the local community. Another condition of acceptance was put to us at the time of applying for support from the Countryside Agency: We were advised that the study should be presented in two separate documents, a Design Statement and a Heritage Statement, the latter document giving more detailed information about Littleborough's history.

Over a period covering approximately three years, study groups whose members were volunteers from the local community met to plan and carry out studies covering the area in terms of its location and setting, the main features of its activities - work, education, traffic movement, housing, shopping and leisure - and access to the countryside.

We were advised that the Design Statement should be presented in two formats, a pamphlet version for delivering to every household in Littleborough summarising our main findings and a more substantial document giving a description of the local setting and a study of its built environment. In this section the different settlements would be described and their essential elements identified. Where these elements were seen as local features of distinctive character, they would indicate the sort of guidance to be given to builders and developers to conserve and enhance them whether they were adapting or modifying existing structures or undertaking new building or new housing projects. This Design Statement was to be accompanied by a Heritage Statement prepared by members of the Littleborough Historical and Archaeological Society.

The pamphlet version was distributed throughout Littleborough in October 2005. The full document and the Heritage Statement were launched publicly with the help of our MP Paul Rowen on Fr.iday 4th November 2005.

We were conscious that the Design Statement is not exhaustive and that the Heritage Statement could only deal with a limited number of significant features and historical events. However both documents have initiated a process of community involvement which we hope will lead to a positive interaction between those responsible for the overall management of the local environment and the people who live in it.

Don Pickis: Chairman of the Littleborough Civic Trust.

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Historic Local Figures Honoured

New Heritage Plaques to be Unveiled

Three blue plaques are to be put up to honour former residents of Littleborough, following 12 months' work by Rae Street. The LCT has received a grant from Pennines Township to pay for the plaques. The three figures to be commemorated are Gordon Harvey, Jesse Fothergill and Enid Stacey.

At the turn of the last century, Gordon Harvey was one of the owners of the Fothergill and Harvey mill and Rochdale's MP. An enlightened employer, he was one of the driving forces behind the setting up of Littleborough Central School in 1903.

Jesse Fothergill was a local novelist who lived near the Fothergill and Harvey mill and wrote about the lives of mill workers.

Enid Stacey was an early women's rights campaigner and champion of working people. She was married to the vicar of St. James's, Calderbrook, where the plaque will be placed.

Tony Smith says "These people are part of Littleborough's heritage and their lives should be recorded in some way. Putting up the blue plaques is the ideal way of doing that".

It is planned to put up the plaques on or near the buildings where the people lived in the next few weeks. They are reproduced below.

Interestingly, Rochdale's current MP Paul Rowan is now pressing for more plaques to be put up to commemorate local people. Where Littleborough leads, others follow!

Plaque commemorating Jesse Fothergill to be placed on the side of the "foam manufacturing" building next to the New England Furniture sales rooms, Todmorden Road (the house itself was demolished some time ago).

Plaque to Gordon Harvey to be placed on the wall of Town House, facing the path known locally as Carriage Drive.

Plaque to Enid Stacey to be placed by the front entrance of St James's, Calderbrook. Hollingworth Lake Country Park (Visitor Centre)

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Articles


Rochdale Borough Renaissance Master Plan: November 7th 2005

John Street wrote the summary below the day after he attended the launch of the Renaissance Masterplan. He felt that it was important for Littleborough Civic Trust members to be aware of the existence and importance of the Masterplan so that they could read it and start considering the impact of it as soon as possible.

We plan to include more on this most important document in future issues of the Newsletter. Information on how to obtain a copy is given at the end of John's article:

The Need for Action

Now is the time when you can influence the content and make suggestions on what you would like to see changed or clarified or added. Our local authority will be considering reactions to the plan during 2006.

There is so much to know and evaluate: real digestion will need a period of months but there is no excuse for not starting Just a small example will illustrate the situation. Some weeks ago two of our Civic Trust members spent a half day looking at a set of alterations to a development proposal at Durn, just outside Littleborough. They were dismayed by the apparent lack of any sympathy or understanding of the importance of the site, the importance of space for humans young and old, where to place cars, the issues of building homes not barracks etc. Three pages of comment were submitted to the appropriate department to be considered. The presentation of that document would be much stronger today by quoting the stated intentions of the Renaissance Masterplan.

Brief Summary of the Launch

During the last two years most of the people living in the Rochdale Borough have been aware of a major project called "Pride of Place". This is a Government supported strategy which is to be achieved in Rochdale between 2003 and 2007.

This strategy was put in place because many of the key characteristics of a healthy community were, in the eyes of our government, very low in our Borough. The result was an agreement for our Borough to carry out a five year plan to greatly enhance the state of our community. The government has allocated large sums of money and our Authority, with a major amount of help from interested Rochdale people, are well on their way to rectifying a very poor situation and laying the groundwork which will support an opportunity to create a much better future both economically and socially.

With three years of progress and the achievement of most of the first set of targets it is appropriate to start the second stage of our journey. You might say we have repaired the boat, now we want to start going somewhere. More formally the Government and our Authority are agreed that it is time to start the second stage of the regeneration of Rochdale called the Rochdale Borough Renaissance Masterplan.

The Masterplan was formally released, at Urbis: which is the very striking building a stone's throw away from the front of Manchester Victoria Railway Station. You could think the entry door is quite hard to find on a dark night: but once inside the facilities are both very pleasant and representative of the modern idiom.

The layout was a raised platform where eight to ten people were sitting. A film was shown, introductory material delivered and then the topics addressed. The invited audience of perhaps 60 people sat in comfortable chairs in what might be called "casual rows".

Councillor Alen Brett chaired the event. The rest of the people on the dais were people who have been involved in the Strategic Partnership and, along with other new faces, would move onto the new Rochdale Borough Renaissance Masterplan. There were representatives from our Authority, including our Chief Executive and major building contractors as well as people from organisations such as English Partnerships There were also other Regional Directors and executives from organisations who would have a part to play in the Masterplan.

After brief introductions the appropriate people from the group addressed their area of interest in the new Masterplan with an opportunity for one or two questions after each speaker. It became a very wide presentation of many issues: how and where the work would have a major impact, how the various contractors would impact on the existing structures, what is the line of authority between the Government, the Region, the local Authority, the Districts in the authority and finally what it means for the people of Rochdale.

Given the time available the topics were very varied, covering for example "where would the skilled labour force come from" to carry out the major aspects of a regeneration designed to equip Rochdale with the facilities, knowledge and structure to undertake what is a "root and branch" change to a large number of situations. The intention is to give us a fair share of the new jobs in Rochdale Borough many of which will also attract applications from such major areas as Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds.

On these topics there were many very relevant questions asked from the floor.

An example is all that is possible in an article of this kind. One question was brought up along the following lines:

"In the Masterplan there is an indication that, at an early stage there will be a wide range of new jobs, possibly some 7000, as a by product of the first stages of this Masterplan. How prepared is the workforce in Rochdale to be able to exploit this opportunity?"

Another angle was:

With current mobility and modern technology is it not true that we are likely to be faced by job applications, from a mass of people from outside the Borough? Such people will have real experience and can commute, from adjacent areas which are already much .further down the line of development than Rochdale. This gives such applicants much more chance of getting the job."

The answer to this problem, from the podium, was that the first tranche of new jobs is in the construction area: roads, buildings and major commercial and technical centres with the provision of all the facilities that support such work. Rochdale's work force was said to be in a reasonable competitive position in this area but that extra technical education in the latest techniques and knowledge areas are being discussed to ensure that our local labour force can sensibly compete with people from outside our area.

The development of our Town Centres, following the Pride of Place initiative, dominated most of the remaining time. The current state was depicted as follows:

Rochdale Town Centre: The major opportunity, which is under way. There are a number of unanswered queries at this time.

Middleton: Has started and is developing momentum.

Heywood: Is at a planning stage and getting started.

No one challenged the statement that confidence in the next steps is very important, the challenges are big and the excitement is real. It will be interesting to read, some years from now, the assessment of how we all performed.

At the end of our meeting our Chief Executive picked up the theme that if quality of life is not achieved nothing will work in the long term.

Sitting on the train going home it occurred to me that people who study the Industrial Revolution recognise it was perhaps the world's biggest jump since human beings decided to stand upright. In the process we left an awful residue of debris and mistakes to correct.

We have a challenge in our own small local world, but with so much experience to guide us, we should try not to make the same mistakes twice.

John Street.

To obtain a copy of the Release Material please contact the Rochdale Authority General Enquiry number: 647474

Ask for

Special Projects Team
Municipal Offices
Smith Street
OL16 1WU

and request a copy of the Rochdale Borough Renaissance Masterplan (March 2005)

Have a simple explanation ready in terms of who you are and what your interest in the document is.

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Unelected Local Government Rules

Did you think, like me, that we had headed off the threat of Regional Government? The majority of those consulted (and this was far from everyone as many folk had no idea what was afoot) opted to remain as they are. Over the border in Rossendale we voted to stay with Lancashire County and, if you wished, I believe you could do the same. The sight of our roads and pavements might not encourage you, but some of our planning, when based on the Lancashire County Joint Structure Plan, might.

Up in the North East, where they amazed John Prescott by voting determinedly against regional government, people are just beginning to realise that they're getting it anyway. Like us, they have a totally unelected, unrepresentative, undemocratic N.E. Regional Assembly telling them what to do and overruling local plans. They call it "John Prescott's Whitehall Poodle", set up solely to enforce government policy. He seems to think that we should welcome it! I can't imagine why. Unless we challenge the legal aspects of placing another tier of local government above what we've already got, and one which we didn't vote for, then the Borough, Town and Parish councils will cease to exist and the Whitehall Poodle will reign.

It doesn't bear thinking about.

Betty H. Taylor
CPRE Planning Volunteer

See the article in the National News section about reactions to the ODPM's proposals for housing planning.

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Identifying English Bluebells

After Jill Roberts' plea in our last issue for donations of English bluebells for the Flower Meadow, I realised to my shame that, despite having a garden overrun with bluebells, I didn't know whether they were native English or the introduced Spanish bluebell. So I did a bit of research. The key differences are:

Leaves: English narrower (7-15mm), Spanish broader (10-35mm).
Flowers: English dark blue to violet, down one side of the stem and drooping. Spanish pale blue, sometimes white or pink, and more upright. Pollen: English cream, Spanish deep blue.

To complicate things, the two species cross-breed, so there are many hybrid plants in gardens with characteristics of both. So to be sure, check that the plants fit the description of English bluebells in all respects.

For more details, see www.plantlife.org.uk/blubells3.htm

Brian Walker

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A Little on the Lighter Side

Anecdotes

You will find as you look back upon life that moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.

Henry Drummond

When an archer misses the mark, he turns and looks for the fault within himself. Failure to hit the bulls-eye is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim - improve yourself.

Gilbert Arland

A diamond is a chunk of coal that made good under pressure.

Anon

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Editor: Brian Walker