Newsletter 130

·         ‘We were devastated that Cockermouth has been hit yet again and send our sympathy to all affected. Best wishes to all’, Barbara and Peter Colley  (former secretary & architectural adviser to Cockermouth CivicTrust)

·         ‘I’ve been shedding a few tears listening to the news about the town, so soon after the last flood.. I seem to recall that “officials” claimed that it would be a once in a life time event, how wrong. I am thinking about all those affected, some for the second time. I am thinking of you all and listening to the news as things change and hope all my old friends will be safe and well’. Barbara Barker (former Secretary to Cockermouth Civic Trust)

·         ‘I was so sorry to see on the news last night that Cockermouth had been flooded again. You were kind enough to show members of Blackpool Civic Trust around the town 2 or 3 years ago. We saw all the hard work that had gone into the repair and renovation of the town centre. It must be dreadful to experience another flooding again. We are all thinking about you at this difficult time’. Joan Humble, (Chairman Blackpool Civic Trust)

·         ‘We are so sorry about this disaster. What a shock for it to happen so soon after the last flood. I hope that we can do something to help. I am in touch with the authorities. Best wishes’. Max Egremont, (President, Cockermouth Civic Trust).

·         ‘We have all been very shocked by the devastation from the flooding and feel that we here in Petworth must do something to help. My wife and I have a meeting tonight with some friends to start putting some ideas in motion to help your community. I would be very grateful if you could let us know of any specific urgent requirements and whether the Cumbria Community Foundation is the most useful place to send money to. We would like the money to go to Cockermouth from Petworth, but appreciate that this may not be logistically possible in the grand scheme of things. But maybe you have some thoughts? Please be assured that Petworth has Cockermouth and it’s surroundings in their thoughts and prayers’. Chris Kemp, (Chairman of Petworth Town Council).

Lecture Season, 2015/16

A reminder of the remaining lectures of this season, all  on the evening of the first Wednesday of the month at the Friends Meeting House, 7.30pm.

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

Visit by Freddie Gick, Tues 15th March (10.30 am)

Venue – United Reformed Church Rooms

Freddie Gick, Chair of Civic Voice, will be visiting us on Tuesday 15th March. The purpose is for us to inform Freddie on what is happening in Cockermouth and to give us the opportunity to influence Civic Voice thinking and policy. The visit will take the form of a meeting in the United Reformed Church Rooms, where we will discuss Cockermouth Civic Trust and Civic Voice activities, followed by an informal light lunch. Around 12.30, we will then take Freddie on a walking tour of our town, returning in time for the afternoon workshop. Members are invited to attend the meeting & lunch. There will be a charge of £6 for the lunch. If you would like to come, could you please return the appropriate slip.

Freddie Gick is a former research scientist and international management consultant who has been involved with civic societies for about 20 years. He is currently a member of Civic Societies in Cheltenham, Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield. He is the ex Chairman of the West Midlands Amenity Societies Association an Honorary Vice President of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and a Trustee of Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust of which he was Chairman from 2009 to 2012.

War Memorial  Condition Survey Workshop

Tuesday 15th March (2 -4 pm), URC Rooms

On the afternoon of the 15th March, we are hosting a war memorial condition survey workshop, organised through Civic Voice, and lead by Freddie Gick. This is again open to members. If you would like to attend, please return the attached slip. The event will be open to individuals and members of other local societies and organisations.

As the nation reflects on the events of the First World War on the centenary, the opportunity is being taken to ensure that war memorials remain a fitting tribute to the fallen. The Civic Voice project, as part of the national commemorative events, will help conserve and protect the nation’s war memorials for the long term, as well as ensuring that there are skilled volunteers available to assess their condition and take steps to preserve them in the proper way.

Please note that there is no obligation to undertake surveys following the workshop and no specific skills are required. The surveys will be at a similar level to those already undertaken by members of Grade II listed buildings.

Funding is available now to restore war memorials, so now is the time for us to act! We have looked at the Cockermouth Memorial and this is clearly in need of some repair, it is possible to see through the Memorial between the stones. The Town Council, now owners of the Memorial, are aware of this and are progressing a formal inspection & costing of repair.

Annual Lunch, Wednesday 4th May, 12 for 12.30pm

Feedback from last year was that a lunchtime rather than evening meal was a resounding success so we will do the same this year.. We had planned to return to the Trout Hotel, but unfortunately they do not expect to re-open after the flood damage until June. We have therefore booked into Hundith Hill. The menu is on the attached return slip. If you would like to come, please return the slip with the remittance of £21.95 per person. As usual, we hope to have an after dinner speaker but this has not yet been finalised. If you would like a lift there, please indicate this on your return slip.

Car Parking Charges – Allerdale  BC Consultation

We have made the following response to Allerdale BC on behalf of our members:

‘The Civic Trust does accept that it may be reasonable for some overall increase in charges to reflect the low levels of inflation over the past 4 years. However, irrespective of our comments below, we would ask if the Council would consider delaying any increases to allow towns and businesses affected by the recent flooding time to recover.

We would also remind the Council that it is inappropriate to cross fund revenue from parking to other Departmental budgets. In this respect we note that in 2013/14 the Council had a surplus of £171,320.99, so we would wish budgets for future years to be fully transparent so that it is clear how any surplus is spent.

The Council proposes to replace parking ticket machines to a capital cost of £350,000. Presumably, this can be phased over a few years to minimise the capital impact on an individual year?

We would like to raise two specific concerns over the Council’s proposals:

– Firstly, we are concerned about the proposed new imposition of evening and overnight charges. This is not simply a cost of living increase, it is a major cost change for people attending theatre or social events in our town centres, rising from zero charge to up to £5. Clearly this will have a significant impact on both individuals and businesses offering evening entertainment, including on volunteers supporting these activities.  Similarly, we are concerned about the impact on town centre hotels and bed & breakfasts and feel that they will be adversely prejudiced by out of town hotels with free parking like the proposed new Premier Inn. We wonder if the Council have really thought this through.

– Secondly, we are concerned about the totally disproportionate increase in permit charges. We are specifically concerned here about the effect this will have on some small town centre businesses without their own parking. This may be the final nail in the coffin for some businesses, aimed by the Council!’

Confluence Area Project

Ros Earthy represented CCT at a meeting to discuss the redevelopment of the confluence area. This meeting was to outline the project and recognise possible problems. It appears that ownership of the land is shared between Allerdale and Jennings. The aim of this scheme is to provide a quiet landscaped area with seating and a heritage information point. There may also be an art work but this will be provided from a separate fund.

The Civic Trust has long campaigned for improvements to this area of town and its gratifying to see the project go ahead despite the floods. One remit of the project is that everything should be flood proof as far as is practicable. The budget for the project is £16,000, of which £13,000 is being provided by Lovells, the builders of the new housing development on Low Road..

Cockermouth Castle

Clearly we have all been dismayed at the havoc and hardship inflicted by the floods on residents and businesses in Cockermouth, again. One thing we did not anticipate is the landslip into the River Derwent below the castle walls.

What amazed and concerned us is the land slip went back so close to the walls without revealing any supporting bedrock. We immediately reported it to Lord & Lady Egremont who were already aware. We also reported it to Historic England, as the castle is a Grade 1 listed building, and to Allerdale BC in case the building should be considered unsafe.

Work has already been undertaken to protect the castle mound against further erosion. We anticipate that further engineering assessments will now be undertaken  to evaluate the castle wall foundations. The walls have stood for over 600 years and we would expect the Normans to have sought out solid foundations!

Planning Applications

We held a special meeting to discuss 2 significant planning applications for the town:

Premier Inn to replace the Shepherd’s Hotel
Lidls and a new building for West Cumberland Farmers.

Both applicants had previously held consultation sessions, which we attended, and both applicants were receptive to our comments. We recognised from the design perspective, both developments, although not visually exciting, would improve their respective localities. Our remaining concerns were the potential impact on other local businesses, particularly the small independent businesses that make Cockermouth what it is. We can see pros and cons to both developments in this respect and it is a difficult call as to where the balance lies. We decided NOT to object to either proposal, but made a few comments of detail.

We strongly objected to the proposal to erect locked gates between the new development on Sullart Street and the Derwent Street area of town. We felt that they would inappropriately divide our town. We were pleased to see that the proposals have been withdrawn.

Town Centre Projects

Cumbria County Council informed us last year that they intended to both complete the Main Street Storm Drain Project & to carry out the necessary repairs to the Market Place infrastructure in early 2016. We were about to ask for an update from the council when Storm Desmond hit us. We have therefore delayed writing but still intend to ask for a formal update shortly.

Local Listing

We are anticipating final agreement to the local listing process from Allerdale BC this month, (January). Once received, the establishment of the ‘Local List’ can begin!

Assets of Community Value

We have submitted a further application for ‘an asset of community value’. This is for the United Reformed Church Rooms and was prepared in agreement with the church. The reason for the submission is that the rooms are now used by a large number of community groups and activities in town and their loss would be a significant detriment to the town’s social scene.

We would also like to nominate the Kirkgate Centre and have drafted an application. We believe this is a prime candidate but are waiting to see if the Kirkgate Centre management team will give us their formal agreement first.

A further ‘asset’ that we have under consideration for registration is the ‘Greenway’. This is complicated by the fact that it has 3 owners along its length and is so far only designated as a ‘permissive footpath’ rather than a ‘public footpath’.  We are investigating this designation as well.

Annual Trip

Carlisle Civic Trust have invited us for a guided tour of their city. Closer to home than usual, but we plan to take advantage of their invite to find out more about our nearest city than just a shopping venue. We would like to include a visit to Lanercost Priory as well. Plans are yet to be put in place, so wait for the next newsletter.

John Dalton Anniversary

2016 is the 250th anniversary of the birth of John Dalton, one of our famous sons. We have decided that Cockermouth should celebrate this anniversary and to feature John Dalton as part of Heritage Open Days in September, which are very close to his birth date. The Heritage Group have agreed to feature Dalton & his work as part of their summer exhibition & to carry forward a dedicated exhibition for HODs. This will supplement a HODs talk on Dalton at the Kirkgate Centre by Thomas Fletcher Smith, author of the book, ‘John Dalton, A Cumbrian Philosopher’.

The local walking group, ‘the Nuclear Striders’, have also developed a long distance footpath called the John Dalton Way in celebration of this anniversary. This starts in Kings Arms Lane, passes through Eaglesfield where Dalton was born, and goes on to Calder Hall near Seascale, the first commercial atomic power station. They plan to launch the walk in Spring and to include some guided walks along the first stage to Eaglesfield as part of HODs in September. The Town Council have kindly provided the Civic Trust with a grant of £150 towards a plaque to mark the start of the walk.

Have you paid your 2015/16 Membership Fee?

This is addressed to the few members who have yet to pay their 2015/16 membership fee. Unless you pay the fee soon this will be the last Newsletter you will receive. If you are unsure if you have paid or not you can check your membership status by contacting Treasurer Ian Dodsworth on 01900 823599 and he will enlighten you. We will shortly have to pay our subscription to Civic Voice which costs £1.50 per member; so you can see it is important to know the correct number of members at that time.

Free Day Out at a National Trust Property.

As a member of Cockermouth Civic Trust you are eligible to apply to Civic Voice to receive a free day pass, worth up to £14, for entrance to a National Trust property. This can be used by yourself or passed to friends and families. A number of members have already taken up this offer and this is a reminder for those who haven’t. When you consider that you will have only paid £7.50 membership fee this is a bargain offer! The current passes are valid up to 31May 2016 so there is plenty of time to have a free day out. Simply send a request stating you are a member of Cockermouth Civic Trust and including a stamped self-addressed envelope to Amber Palmer at Civic Voice, 60 Duke Street, Liverpool, L1 5AA.

And Finally:

It was devastating for Cockermouth to be so hard hit by the floods yet again, particularly for those directly affected, whether homes or businesses. The new flood defences were never designed to cope with flood water on this scale but thankfully, they did mitigate the effects and the overall impact to some extent. Clearly, one in one hundred year events can repeat in a short time frame, the fact that one flood has happened does not reduce the risk of one tomorrow. However, the science of global warming does predict higher rainfall events and this increase in risk needs to be built into flood assessments and flood protection. We also need to be more innovative nationally in our thinking on our design for flood protection and to be more aware of the negative consequences of our building practices. An example of such lateral thinking has already been implemented in Pickering in Yorkshire, led by their Civic Society, a ‘slowing the flow’ scheme that received a Civic Voice Design award in 2015. This scheme involves a package of measures to slow the rate of run off up stream, such as woodland planting, mini dams, etc..  Clearly, there are lessons to be learnt from Pickering for the Derwent and Cocker catchment areas, and others.

The efforts being put into the recovery of our town centre are to be applauded. It was excellent for the spirit of the town that the lantern parade and Christmas Food Festival went ahead only a week or so after the flood.

Phil Campbell, Chairman