PC Janice Parrott leads the Rushcart procession down
(Photo: Iain S Gerrard)
Communities Secretary Hazel Blears announced the release of the Planning Reform Bill at the end of November. Many of the proposals from the Planning White Paper have passed through unchanged.
The main proposals in the Bill are:
The Bill can be found online at: http://services.parliament.uk/bills. It is expected that the Bill will now be given a second reading in the House of Commons before Christmas, before detailed examination begins in Committee in the New Year.
A coalition of conservation, environmental and civic organisations including the Civic Trust, the CPRE, Friends of the Earth and The National Trust, together representing more than five million people, has condemned the bill.
As anticipated (the Coalition says) the Bill makes no significant changes to the proposals set out in the Planning White Paper earlier in the summer, despite the 32,000 individual responses to that consultation. The vast majority of these were from ordinary members of the public, expressing their concerns that the proposals threaten local democracy, communities and the environment, and calling on the Government to think again.
A spokesperson for the coalition said: "Ministers' decision to press ahead despite these concerns suggests that they are not interested in public opinion on planning - hardly encouraging when so much of the planning process should be about listening to the views of individuals and communities, and ensuring that all the evidence is fully considered."
The coalition is calling on Ministers to revise their flawed proposals fundamentally, maintaining credible and democratic decision-making in the process, ensuring that development is truly sustainable, and guaranteeing meaningful opportunities for consultation, including a right for the public to be heard.
The coalition's representative said: "We hope that MPs will use the debates on the Bill to champion democracy, accountability and sustainable development, and reject proposals that sideline communities and the environment."
At a special meeting of Rossendale Borough Council's Development Control Committee held on the 28th November 2007, at the Council Chamber in Rawtenstall, the only item for discussion was Application Number 2007/125, "Erection and operation of 3 wind turbines with associated substation, met masts and access at land at Reaps Moss, Bacup".
This was the first Coronation Power Application for wind turbines on our moors to be heard by a Borough Council and the council chamber was packed to the rafters with both "Friends of the South Pennines" and "Coronation Power" supporters.
As the meeting began Mr. Mirchandani, for Coronation Power, had some of his supporters raise a banner in the chamber but the Committee Chairman immediately ordered him to have it removed.
The format for the meeting was:
One of the five people speaking against the application said that the data presented for the "Representations from Individuals of 1,325 letters/emails expressing support for the proposal having been received and 840 letters/emails expressing objection" were not as transparent as they might seem.
Of the 840 letters/emails objecting to the proposal 67% were from local people and the remainder were from surrounding affected areas. There where also 60 individual letters (not printed copies) of objection.
Of the 1,325 letters/emails supporting the proposals it was alleged that only 30% came from the local area. In fact many came from Southern England and abroad. There were no individual letters and many were in such disparaging terms of the people against the proposal that they should have been excluded. There was no reply to these allegations from Coronation Power speakers.
During Mr. Mirchandani's speech he continually used veiled threats, referring to the inevitability of any refusal for permission being overturned by a government inspector on appeal, aimed at the Council Committee members who to their credit completely ignored them.
After a marathon three and a half hours the Committee voted, by a massive 9-2 majority to reject the application.
By the same 9-2 majority they also voted to advise both Calderdale and Rochdale Councils that they object to the applications for further wind turbines facing them.
This may be the first victory for everyone who objects to these monsters being placed on our moorland but we (and Rochdale and Calderdale Councils) should also be wary of the rather disingenuous campaign already being waged by Coronation Power.
We have a number of items in this edition of the Newsletter about Pennines Prospects. As reported previously, Pennine Prospects was established in 2005 to support the regeneration of the South Pennines. The company is owned by the key local authorities, water companies, Natural England and the voluntary/community sector and builds upon the good work carried out over the last twenty years by the Standing Conference of South Pennine Authorities (SCOSPA). SCOSPA's focus on protecting the built, natural and cultural heritage for the benefit of the area's residents remains important for Pennine Prospects, but the brief has broadened to better link the urban and rural regeneration processes across the three city regions that we sit at the centre of (Leeds, Manchester and Central Lancashire).
Pennine Prospects have just been awarded a £50,000 HLF Planning Grant under the Landscape Partnerships scheme. This provides resources to prepare a full application to HLF next year to implement a programme of restoration/conservation projects and reach new audiences in relation to management of the water catchment land and associated features in the South Pennines.
Pennine Prospects has submitted an application to Natural England to fund the coordination of the work of the three Fire Authorities that cover the South Pennines, together with local authorities, in fighting moorland fires. Every year, with the threat of increasing frequency due to climate change, fires cause huge damage to peat and vegetation, releasing further CO² and threatening wildlife. Better coordination between those responsible for combating fires will help reduce this damage, if the application is successful.
The annual meeting of South Pennines Prospects took place on Friday the 5th of October at the Square Chapel in Halifax. My wife, Iain Gerrard and I attended for and on behalf of the Littleborough Civic Trust.
The main theme, as could be expected, was promoting the Pennines for tourism. Another was sustaining the area as a working environment under the grand title of "Sustainable Communities within a Landscape".
One of the aspects that was given little or no consideration was the very reason we have such a beautiful landscape is because it has been looked after for generations by people who know the value of the land, these people being the farmers, the land owners and the game keepers, all of whom have a vested interest in preserving the areas that each in turn are responsible for. The farmers because it is their livelihood. The land owners employ game keepers in order to conserve the area so that game can thrive and multiply. Like it or not, game shooting is a very valuable activity, but in order to ensure a good return from this harvest, a vast amount of land management has to take place; it is an essential part of the rural economy.
Photo: Iain S Gerrard
Without the sheep farmers on the high hills, without the grouse moors and the low wooded areas with pheasants, all contributing to that economy, how else is the land going to produce revenue? Tourism itself isn't going to provide income. How have things like the Pennine way contributed to the income of the moors it crosses?
In our area itself, Blackstone Edge once held grouse. I can remember hearing the go-back-go-back-go-back call of grouse in spring as I walked in the area, and woe betide if we strayed off the path, for someone, keeper or farmer, would soon tell us off.
All that no longer happens. Now in early spring, vandals set fire to huge swathes of moorland, often destroying the peat. Blackstone Edge road itself is in danger of collapse through soil/peat erosion. The Pennine way is also contributing to the destruction of the very moors that people who use it come to see. When it comes to the repair of the footpath, who pays? Certainly not those who use it, no, their only contribution is the odd pint or meal in the area they happen to be in at the time.
If the land does not produce income from such as farming etc. then the people who own the land, either sell the land on, for Houses, Caravan sites, or something else that will inject income, or worse still put wind farms on it.
The Pennine moors, and the lower hills and valleys are just as much a delicate eco-system as any other, and it requires just as much expertise; expertise that in most cases has been handed down from generation to generation. If this knowledge is lost, it is lost forever, along with the very environment that South Pennines Prospects is trying to promote.
Brian Walker, Marcus Johnson, Elizabeth Birkett & Kate Sutton (BTCV)
(Photograph: Iain S Gerrard)
Following the clean-ups reported in the last newsletter things have moved on and we now have the new paths completed and many bulbs and plants put into the ground. Please visit the meadow as, even now, it is more pleasant to walk there than it was before and this can only get better.
The bulb planting was done on two days in late November by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and members of the Littleborough Civic Trust. The weather was not quite what we could have wished and the photograph contrasts considerably from that in the Summer issue!.
The Littleborough Civic Trust sub-group which covers issues discussed by the 'Friends' have written to them making suggestions as to how the long-standing problem of traffic versus pedestrians along Rakewood Road might be resolved. The committee had discussed various options which included having traffic lights at each end of Rakewood Road, humps at intervals along the road and/or painting lines to demark the 'road' from the 'path'. None of these were considered to be acceptable. Traffic lights would only reduce the traffic by ensuring that it ran in one direction without any guarantee that speeds would be less. Humps are likely to reduce the speeds but only by making the experience distinctly unpleasant no matter how slow the vehicles travel. The feeling was that painting lines everywhere would spoil the rural appearance of the area.
Our proposals were as follows:
a) Extending the promenade which presently exists only below LakeBank,
b) Increasing the overall width of the road by culverting the drain at the road side to create extra width for a pathway (as mentioned in the last issue),
c) The path to be delineated by different materials and separated from the road proper with bollards.
The extension of the promenade would be the most satisfactory solution but would be expensive and is probably not a realistic proposal. As mentioned in the last issue the second option might cost £50,000 and United Utilities would be unlikely to fund any alterations to this extent. The third option would reduce the existing road somewhat and would need to be done carefully, increasing the existing width wherever possible to accommodate the path and is a variation on the second option. The use of bollards to make a definite division between walkers and drivers yet allowing spillage onto the carriageway proper when cars were absent might be the best chance to achieve safety.
I received an email from an ex-Littleboroughian who now resides in British Columbia; the man told me that he had seen the obituaries for Ron Taylor and Keith Parry in a 2005 newsletter on our website. He had been taught by Ron Taylor and although he had not known Keith he had bought many a pair of shoes from his parents' and grandfather's shop. I felt it was an indication of the usefulness of the website in informing people of the things which are occurring in Littleborough.
We have been asked to allow a representative of the police to attend our meetings in an attempt to have greater liaison between them and the community. The first time this occurred was at our September meeting and the second in December and they will be visiting us every four months thereafter. This is simply an opportunity for people to discuss any concerns they may have over policing in Littleborough and will take place prior to our actual meetings.
One concern expressed was about the number of second-hand cars parked on open land at various points throughout the town with sale notices in their windows. It was felt that these were detrimental to the appearance of the town. It was pointed out that the law is complicated in that drivers parking on double yellow lines are the responsibility of the traffic department and traffic wardens but, if the police find a dangerous obstruction, they would deal with the offence immediately and on some occasions the driver would have points added to his/her licence and/or fined. The result so far may be beginning to show as a car was recently removed from the side of Hollingworth Road and we understand the owner will be obliged to pay a fine before he/she can recover it.
(Photo: Iain S Gerrard)
After considerable effort, very late in the day, the combined efforts of the Rochdale Morris, ourselves, Littleborough Lions and the Littleborough Business Association managed to find sufficient numbers of performers for this event. These included Japanese drummers, a tai chi demonstration, the Egg Pace players and the Samba Drumming band in addition to the Morris Dancers. Four Morris dancing teams were present on the day: Rochdale Morris, Milltown Cloggies, the Flagcrackers of Craven and the Hebden Bridge Hill Millies. There was also a considerable police presence on the dancing area although they have not to date formed their own team!
A possible clash with an event being organised by Rochdale Special Projects at Ealees on the same weekend was avoided after a delegation from ourselves went to meet them. They had not been aware of our event but were more than willing to cooperate; we hope that better coordination between us in the future will avoid a repeat of the confusion.
It must be said that we were very lucky with the weather which performed perfectly on the day giving us bright sunshine for the afternoon.
In addition to the performers there were charity stalls, an ice cream seller and a hot food seller.
In order to avoid the late panic being repeated in future, which despite our best efforts reduced the Rushbearing to one day on the Sunday rather than the whole weekend, all the interested parties have already met more than once to ensure preparations for 2008 go smoothly.
The intention is that the Sunday event will conform more or less to the usual format with the dancing culminating in the Square in the afternoon. The Saturday however will be a much larger affair incorporating a fair in Hare Hill Park with events such as children's rides, Punch & Judy, a magician, displays by police dogs and the fire service and of course the Morris Dancers.
This site raised its head once again when a public exhibition was given at the United Reformed Church over a period of two days in July. The so-called preferred developers had found themselves another architect who had put together another scheme for - you guessed it - houses or flats!
A suggestion by one of our members, who also represents the Littleborough Canalside Development Group, that a public meeting be held after the exhibition was rejected out of hand by the Rochdale Development Agency.
It should be understood that an exhibition promoting a development and manned only by the developer and the Rochdale Development Agency hardly gives anyone opposed to such development a chance to put their case to the public visiting such an exhibition. A public meeting would allow an even-handed approach to such consultation exercises. Read what you will into the Development Agency's reluctance to have such a consultation. My view is that the Agency has put so much effort into the development of this site, yet on such a fragile and ill-thought-out basis, that they are now desperate to push it through whether it is beneficial to Littleborough or not.
The planning sub-committee attended a meeting in Rochdale to which we had been invited to discuss new proposals for energy conservation in new buildings. While of considerable current interest the indications are that the Government will, undoubtedly with the best of intentions, get things wrong once again. One obvious point of concern was the basic intention to control the methods used for energy conservation within the Planning system when they would generally be of a technical nature more suitably controlled by the Building Inspectorate.
Following our letter responding to the exhibition put on to show the general public the proposals for this site we were invited to meet the representatives of the Woodford Group to discuss further our points of objection. The result was no more than an agreement to disagree. We can only look at such proposals from the point of view of the benefits, if any, to Littleborough, whereas Woodford, for all their expressed desire to keep the people of Littleborough on board through consultation, can only do so much before the god of profit comes into the argument. This is not to say that we hold profiteering to be a sin but we feel it cannot be the final arbiter in such considerations.
Yet another planning application has been presented for this site by Bridgestone Properties.
The planning sub committee was unanimous in its opinion that the applicants have learned little from their two previous refusals and the loss of their two appeals against the refusals. The site would still be too densely built at 55 dwellings/apartments (60 dwellings per hectare equivalent, despite the appeal officer's comment that she had felt that a case could be made for less than 30 dwellings) and the 'architecture' was still inappropriate for the area. We have sent yet another letter of objection.
I hope you can keep fighting off the desire of Rochdale Council to turn canal side sites into housing estates, hotels and conference centres or anything more suited to Piccadilly, Manchester. If this is the third attempt to built at Durn, and the applications are similarly unsuitable, it should be possible to turn it down without any trouble or reference to the Secretary of State. It's in the Planning Guidance, as far as I know.
I've never heard anyone say how many houses are allowed to be built in Littleborough. I'm sure you're well over the limit, as we are in Rossendale, and this is proving the very best reason the Council has for turning excessive plans down. We don't have to conform to what the N.W. Government Office considers is good for us, as we have so far refused to have Regional Government. We want to stay with Lancashire County, and so far we are doing.
See the article by Betty Taylor below for some encouraging news about the diminishing threat of regional government in our area.
As its matriarch my paternal grandmother ruled the family through the vicissitudes of life, not by the proverbial 'rod of iron', nor was she heavy-handed. Her regime was far more subtle, a mere tut tut, frown or a few well-chosen words would suffice to prevent any misdemeanour tarnishing the family name. She also forbade any of her grandchildren attending at funerals, even family interments. It was this precept I managed to break.
In the 1930s I attended Littleborough Central School (that building of blessed memory overlooking the park). During that fateful year we were about to break up for the Christmas holiday, the school hall was decked with the usual decorations for the festive season, and many of the scholars were enjoying extra-curricular activities. All that was about to change when an extraordinary school assembly was summoned; it was to be addressed by the headmaster A.T.Evans. He was obviously very upset and spoke with a quivering voice. We were told that our French teacher Nora Clegg had died quite suddenly, her death made more poignant by an enormous Christmas cracker she had made which remained suspended from the balcony in school hall.
Littleborough County Primary School
Photo: Littleborough Historical & Archæological Society archive
We were also told that it had been decided her pupils would attend the funeral at St. Barnabas Church, Shore, not to intrude on the family mourners, but as a dignified presence in the churchyard. We had been well-schooled on how to behave — I distinctly remember walking in single file (school cap removed) past the open grave, where each scholar paused momentarily with bowed head. So that was it I had attended my first funeral and, as a callow youth thought my grandmother never knew, which of course she did for in all family matters she was infallible.
My childhood memory of Miss Clegg was of a tall, austere yet kindly teacher who on entering the classroom carrying a pile of exercise books uttered the immortal words 'Bonjour mes enfants'. And who as a teacher had failed to convert me into a Francophile, yet the seed had been sown. For sixty six years later my eldest granddaughter Catherine was studying French at Warwick University, where on attaining a good degree she now teaches French at a Warwickshire school.
So thank you Miss Clegg you have not been forgotten — R.I.P.
P.S. A recent visit to Shore churchyard has revealed that Nora Clegg died on 19 December 1937.
Allen Holt's latest book, "Smallbridge, A Lost Village", published by George Kelsall, is now available.
The Civic Trust has been concerned for some time about the lack of a pedestrian pavement at the front of the "Caldermoor" pub at the busy junction of Hare Hill Road/Calderbrook Road.
In front of the "Caldermoor" there is a car park with very badly broken bollards damaged by cars going in and out of the area. This is a very busy crossroads where children and adults cross and is an area where an accident could easily occur as cars move from the car park on to the road and with no clear demarcation between cars and pedestrians. It is not possible to walk on a continuous pavement round the pub from Hare Hill Road on to Calderbrook Road.
Representations have been made to the Pennines Township Committee for a proper and safe pavement area to be made but so far this has not been considered a priority for funding. However, I understand that they will consider the proposals again in the next financial year (2008) and we can only hope that funding will be made available for this dangerous area.
Would you like the good news or the bad? Well, the bad news is that the Government Office of the North West, advised by the North West Regional Assembly (both unelected, unrepresentative bodies) seems to be deciding our future for us by dictating planning policy and telling the few councillors left on the Planning Committee how to vote. In other words, they are imposing Regional Government on us by stealth and hoping we'll just accept that they are in charge. And the good news is that I have just been reading a Joint Study on "Cross Border Travel" by Lancashire CPRE and Greater Manchester Transport Action Group which states quite categorically that the dreaded RSS, or Regional Spatial Strategy, has not been endorsed by the Examination-in-Public Panel Inspector who insisted that changes were made before submission to the Secretary of State.
This is the first intimation, in writing, that the fight is not over - in fact, we haven�t begun yet, and maybe we shall never need to. I have heard faint whispers that Lancashire and Greater Manchester Councils could possibly combine by returning to what existed before the 1974 Local Government Reorganisation and becoming the Lancashire County Palatinate again. In 1992 the Government promised us a referendum on Boundary Changes: it turned out to be a plan to impose another complete re-organisation of Local Government on us. We haven't had the referendum, so we still vote people on to Borough and Parish Councils. If we don't like what they do we vote them off next time.
And the very best news is this, that the North West Assembly and the Government Office of the North West can advise us but not compel us to do anything and if they don't like it, too bad - we do not have Regional Government yet.
I thought this may be a very good time to provide some comment on new issues which could contribute to the development of opportunities in the Pennine District and look at one or two old ones from a new angle.
My computer room has one big desk with the computer gear and there are three other flat surfaces where there are mounds of paper covering projects that have happened, projects that are dreams and projects of various aspects which appear to present new opportunities for us. I could not resist the challenge they represent so here are initial thoughts on what could be done in one or two areas and that I personally would enjoy.
On the first table is a mass of paper with the words 'Pennine Prospects' visible in about three heaps. My enthusiasm for what this could mean in 2008 is very strong. Put very simply a map will show you what the excitement is about. The Pennines were first seen when the great snow and ice cap started to melt and retreat towards the North Pole. As they emerged from the retreating ice the Millstone Grit was exposed in massive outcrops with modest beginnings in east Cheshire/Lancashire, becoming the dominant features above Littleborough, rising to 2000 feet and continuing in the East-West direction behind Oldham, then gradually declining towards the east coast. The potential for development of this fine landscape is immense. This is not just an idle boast when you realise that in our own Pennine District of Rochdale it is claimed that there is the most dense pattern of public footpaths in Great Britain. They are in need of repair and development, but when you realise that Greater Manchester recognises that there are some one million people who can get to Littleborough by train within an hour of leaving home, you can see the potential for development of a very significant tourist industry.
For those that know the area well you can see the immediate opportunities that would open up if we could bring Hollingworth Lake, Hare Hill Park and our part of the Pennine Edge within the status of a National Park with attractions such as walking and sailing in which schools, young people, organised parties and independent groups of friends would all have a place. Hare Hill Park has the space and is ideally situated to act as a meeting place and a booking/information centre. A very welcome facility could be a horse riding project. Similarly: thought should be given to not only provide booking capabilities for visitors but also activities such as golf, tennis, football and other sporting activities. Finally: with the hills around you there is a need for up to date walking guides for all tastes from pushing a pram round to walks of 25 -30 mile paths for the young and those who like a challenge. A whole set of books on walking and climbing in the area could be available within 12 months due to the efforts, over 5 years, of a team of experienced climbers to fill this need.
Littleborough Civic Trust has recently joined the "Friends of Real Lancashire", a group dedicated to Protect, Preserve and Promote the true identity of The Traditional County of Lancashire. I for one am all for it. Even though I was born and bred in Staffordshire I moved to Lancashire in 1976, first Bolton and then Littleborough, and I do feel very strongly that Lancashire is now my home, in fact I have always written my address as Lancashire.
So please always include Lancashire in addresses for all places within the Real County boundaries and don't forget that Lancashire Day is on 27th November. If you would like to know more or even join The Friends of Real Lancashire yourself then check out their website: www.forl.co.uk.
Editor: Brian Walker