Newsletter 129

Welcome to our Summer Newsletter. Time to start thinking about our 2015/16 season, a new set of entertaining lectures and I’m afraid, annual subscription renewal. We have decided to increase the subscription rate slightly for next year. I don’t apologise for this because we have held the rate constant for over 10 years now, despite increases in insurance costs and absorbing the new subscription to Civic Voice. The 2015/16 rate is £7.50 for individuals and £5.00 for  each additional person at the same address. Please do renew by returning the enclosed renewal form, and remember my usual plea to recommend membership to friends, relatives and neighbours!

Our main workload this summer has been progressing Local Listing for Cockermouth, reviewing the need to nominate local buildings as ‘assets of community value’ and undertaking another ‘Walk of Pride’. We have also written to the County Council on two counts, one over our concerns on the non-completion of the Main Street Storm Drains and secondly over the deteriorating condition of the Market Place/Castlegate roadway infrastructure.  An update on all of these is given later in this newsletter.

We have also had a meeting with our new MP, Sue Hayman. The purpose was two-fold, one to discuss the current issues with the County Council and secondly to introduce her to ourselves and to the objectives of Civic Voice at national level. The meeting was very positive and she appeared very supportive of our concerns and specifically promised to write to the County Council supporting our concerns.

It is with sadness that I report the death of Joan Hughes after a long illness. Joan and Tom have been long term active members of the Civic Trust & Joan was a great support to Tom during his period as Chairman.

Lecture Season, 2015/16

Brian & Margaret Coley have taken over the organisation of the new season and I think you will agree that they have come up with an excellent programme. As usual, all lectures will be on the evening of the first Wednesday of the month at the Friends Meeting House, 7.30pm.

Oct 7th
Mervyn Dodd
Iron ore mining of West Cumbria

Nov 4th
Anna Malina
The impact of war – Silloth airfield

Dec 2nd
Jules Brown
What a character – conservation areas

Feb 3rd
Andy Walsh
Real bread – the best thing since sliced bread

Mar 2nd
Phil Brown
Saving Cumbria’s wildlife & wild places

Apr 6th
Will Rawling
Upland farming

Main Street Storm Drain

We wrote to Cumbria CC in June to request a formal update on progress to complete the project to install the Main Street storm drain. We felt it necessary to make this request as we lacked the confidence in the council to complete this important facility for the town.

The new storm drain was originally part of the 2014 project to repair the Main Street infrastructure after the 2009 floods and a very significant amount of public money has already been spent installing the portion of the drains under the street itself, which will be wasted if the project is not completed. We therefore asked:

Does it remain the intention of CCC to complete this project?
If so, what is the current status of the project, and,
What is the current estimate of the completion date?

We also stated that we considered the project to have been poorly managed  & questioned whether it  had been subject to internal and external review and that lessons had been learnt. CCC replied ‘Can I personally assure you that Cumbria County Council is fully committed to completing this important scheme and to ensure the new drainage system for Main Street is completed as soon as reasonably possible’. In order to ‘give us increased confidence’, they arranged for an officer managing the project to meet us. We have subsequently met with Karl Melville of Cumbria CC who was able to inform us that:

  • The storm drain does already have an outlet, albeit small (6 inch), which has been proven to drain to the river.
  • They have already installed remote monitoring in the storm drain & have standby pumps which can be called on if necessary.
  • They still intend to provide the missing link to the storm drain down High Sand Lane, but will bore through at depth rather than hand dig from the surface.
  • They will monitor the stability of the buildings on High Sand Lane both before & during the installation work.
  • High Sand Lane will be fully resurfaced on completion.
  • Consultation with interested parties such as building owners & the Chamber of Trade is still to take place but the work should take place in the new year.

And finally, Cumbria CC still have a snagging list of 62 items from the Main Street project and still intend to follow up on these once the storm drain is fully completed.

Market Place Road Infrastructure

We also wrote to Cumbria CC to ask what their current intentions are regarding the need to repair the road infrastructure in Market Place and Castlegate, because of our concerns that the condition of this infrastructure is continuing to deteriorate without any apparent plan from the council to make it good.

In 2008, the road and pavement infrastructure in the Market Place area was renewed to high standard as part of the Market Place regeneration programme. For whatever reason, no snagging inspection was imposed on completion and, to our knowledge, no early repair work was undertaken. Since that time, the general condition has been allowed to deteriorate. In 2013/14, the County Council informed us that repair of the existing faults on an individual basis was not appropriate and all of the repairs needed to be enveloped within one project. Furthermore, we were led to believe that this project would follow on from the Main Street Refurbishment Project, and that money had been set aside. Clearly, that has not happened. We provided a set of photos to illustrate our point.

A formal reply has not yet been received, but we were able to discuss this issue with Karl Melville of Cumbria CC. He was able to inform us that:
The original work in Market Place was undertaken by Allerdale BC & despite arrangements being put in place, it has not yet been ‘adopted’ by Cumbria CC.
Formal estimates to bring the infrastructure up to the required standard to be adopted have been obtained and a budget is largely, but not yet completely, in place.
It is intended to complete this work by the end of the current financial year.
The mosaics are at risk because there is no money in the budget to repair them & Cumbria Highways do not have a budget to maintain them in the future. An option is to remove the mosaics completely.

We feel that it would be a big loss to the town if the mosaics were lost, but money needs to be found to not only repair them, but maintain them in the future. Clearly this was something not adequately considered at the outset.

Local Listing Project

As you will be aware from previous newsletters, we are leading on identifying and assessing buildings, etc, for consideration for local listing in Cockermouth & district as a pilot area for the whole of Allerdale. Duncan Keeler, as project leader, has established nomination forms and an assessment process which he has agreed with Helen Brownlie, Conservation Officer for Allerdale BC. We are are now trialling the process by individually completing nomination forms for the buildings, (etc), identified a couple of years ago by brain storm at a Civic Trust meeting, and then assessing them by sub committee.  So far, we have taken 18 buildings, (etc), through this process.  This has included,
Village Halls (Papcastle & Brigham)
Barclays & HSBC Banks
Waterloo Street buildings
a disused railway bridge off Low Road
Kirkgate Centre
Pepperpot House
The view down Station Street to open countryside

You might not think that a view could be listed, but it can be if it’s important to the local sense of place. The view down Station Street connects what was a market town with the countryside around it.

If you consider that something in Cockermouth & District should be on the local list, please let someone on the committee know, or better still, ask for a nomination form.

Assets of Community Value

We have been giving consideration to whether there are any community resources in Cockermouth that it would be appropriate to register as an ‘asset of community value’ under the Localism Act of 2011. The right under the act allows community groups such as the Civic Trust to identify assets that are of value to the local community and nominate these for inclusion on a list of such assets, maintained in our case by Allerdale BC. Apart from the public ‘statement’ of being registered as an asset to the community, the real tangible benefit of being registered is that if a listed asset comes up for sale, eligible community groups would have up to 6 months in which to make a bid to buy it.

As a result and with the agreement of Cockermouth Town Council, we have made 2 nominations:
The Memorial Gardens
Harris Park

We have also prepared a submission for the Kirkgate Centre, but are awaiting the formal agreement of the centre before submitting it.

Out of interest, one of the most common assets to be nominated at the moment are village pubs. The Cumbria branch of CAMRA are actively pursuing this in Cumbria.

Rivers Cocker/Derwent Confluence Area

We have had a long term ambition to get the river confluence area improved. It ought to be an asset to the town where locals & visitors can relax and enjoy the junctions of urban and rural scenery as well of the junction of the rivers. It is also on our town trail & at the moment it is a ‘backwater’.

Following the successful re-landscaping of Kirkbank, we had discussions with both Lady Egremont and Joe Broomfield, our Allerdale BC Town Manager, about the prospect of upgrading and landscaping this area. Allerdale BC have now come up with a plan. This includes:
Removing Himalayan balsam & re-establishing native riverside flora.
Re-furbishing the seats
Recovering sandstone blocks & re-work to construct a heritage information point
Provision of a wheelchair access path
Pruning & thinning out trees & shrubs in the eastern corner to integrate with the rest of the area, potentially creating a quiet sitting area
Repairing the boundary wall and refurbishing the bollards.

The plan is excellent, but will of course cost money, possibly around £15,000. It will also be important to maintain it in the future. We hope that it can brought to fruition.

2015 Walk of Pride

10 members of Cockermouth Civic Trust and the Town Manager, Joe Broomfield, undertook this year’s ‘Walk of Pride’ around Cockermouth Town Centre, seeking out areas to be proud of as well as aspects that we would like to see improved. As usual, we found plenty to be proud about in our town. We liked the seasonal floral displays, particularly the hanging baskets, the central island display on Main Street and the planters at the rear of The Bush. The new banners on the lamp posts add character and ambiance to the street and all of the young artists need to be congratulated. The WW1 centenary commemorative garden at the junction of Crown Street & Gote Road is original and imaginative. Shop and building frontages continue to be generally of high standard and we would this year particularly highlight the Brown Cow pub and Children’s Society Charity Shop for commendation.

Of course, we did find areas for improvement. We continue to be disappointed that a few frontages continue to be out of character with our town and the owners either won’t listen or do not understand our concerns. After all, we are simply seeking an attractive town for locals & visitors alike. We will be highlighting buildings where paintwork has significantly deteriorated and where vegetation is growing in the building structure. We understand the need for shopkeepers to use ‘A’ boards, etc to advertise their businesses, but would ask that they give consideration to safe access for pedestrians, particularly push chairs and wheelchairs, and especially on the narrow pavements of Station Street. We are disappointed that the seating in Market Place can’t be maintained in a cleaner overall condition, but would congratulate those shopkeepers who regularly clean them outside of their own shops, showing good community spirit. Finally, the condition of at least 2 of our public phone boxes is appalling with one surrounded by weeds and the other plastered with out of date posters!

Walks from Cockermouth

I’m pleased to say that the 9th revised edition of this booklet is just about ready for printing and will be available later this year. It does now contain 10 walks, including 2 new ones as previously mentioned, the Famous Son’s Walk and Wythop Mill via the 3 Lonnings.

Visit to Hoghton Tower & Samlesbury Hall

We had to limit numbers to 28 this year and ended up with a waiting list, the first time that this has happened! The weather was pretty poor but fortunately this hardly mattered as we were mostly indoors. The trip appeared to be thoroughly enjoyed by all. The guide for Hoghton Tower was possibly our best guide ever, well informed and with a well balanced spiel. After lunch in the Great Hall at Samlesbury, our tour was led by a costumed guide in character, engaging interactively with us. At least 2 of our group ‘died by the sword’ before the tour was over!

Civic Voice Design Awards

We submitted, through Allerdale BC, the artworks in Lowther Went for the new Civic Voice Design Awards. It did not get shortlisted, but it was commended and the Judge’s citation make good reading:

‘No doubt this is a relatively small project in comparison to many of the entries that will be submitted, but it has unquestionably resulted in a noticeable improvement to the look and feel of the Lowther Went area in Cockermouth. What was previously an eyesore building has been transformed into an attractive canvas, with the two artworks enhancing the local environment and showcasing a slice of Cockermouth’s history. What has particularly impressed me about this project is that the idea, drive and means for its completion have come from Cockermouth Civic Trust, an organisation made up wholly of local volunteers. Through member involvement and donations the project has had a big impact whilst costing very little. In relation to the judging criteria for the Civic Voice Design Award this project seems to tick all of the boxes: • The artwork was commissioned from a local artist specifically for the intended location and has been mounted on a material that will stand the test of time. Having said that, each artwork is potentially removable in the future and could be replaced with a new or updated design if necessary. • The artwork captures a small part of Cockermouth’s heritage. • It’s an innovative project that has given an eyesore utility building a new lease of life. • The artwork enhances the local historic built environment and celebrates the architecture of Cockermouth as a whole. • From the initial idea to the artworks being put in place, the project has been delivered by local volunteers and enthusiasts. The town of Cockermouth dates back to Norman times and has a rich architectural history, incorporating a range of attractive Georgian and Victorian properties. The Lowther Went shopping area is a late 20th century development and as such, is somewhat architecturally ‘disconnected’ from the rest of the town centre. This project has, at least to some degree, helped to reconnect this ‘annex’ of the town centre with the historic core of Cockermouth’.

Heritage Open Days, 10th to 13th September

Please don’t forget to support Heritage Open Days this year. The full national programme is on the website and our local programme is on a leaflet available at the TIC. One to definitely go to this year is the final update on the 3 year Roman archaeological dig at Papcastle, (Derventio). This is at the Kirkgate Centre on the Friday at 7.30pm, entrance free but by ticket.

National Trust Day Pass

The summer might be ending, but you can still enjoy a day out on Civic Voice! Since renewing their membership, thousands of civic society members have enjoyed the opportunity of a day out to a National Trust property. With access to hundreds of fantastic properties across England, this gift is available exclusively to members of civic societies by sending an sae to the Civic Voice offices at 60 Duke Street, Liverpool, L1 5AA.

Town Heritage Treasure Hunt

Jane Shepherd produced an excellent heritage treasure hunt for us that we initially used for a visiting Women’s Institute and then again at this year’s Cockermouth Live. Its too good to just throw away so we are making copies available so that anyone can do it in their own time for fun. Copies are available at the TIC, at our first lectures or by request.
Phil Campbell, Chairman