Newsletter 131

Headlines for this newsletter:

  • We welcome Freddie Gick, Chair of Civic Voice, to Cockermouth
  • Celebrations of John Dalton 250 begin with the unveiling of the John Dalton Way Plaque
  • Heritage Open Days plans are progressing well, boosted by John Dalton 250
  • Tickets are now on sale for our trip to Carlisle and Lanercost Priory on July 5th, limited to 25.
  • We continue with our castle tours with some access restrictions pending engineering assessments, but it has all happened before!
  • Allerdale BC put a spanner in the works on the Local Heritage Listing project.
  • Allerdale BC reject our application for the URC rooms to be an Asset of Community Value
  • Cockermouth Town Council decide NOT to develop a Neighbourhood Plan
  • Cumbria County Council have stopped talking to us
  • A dozen Civic Trust members assist in the tidy up of the Memorial Gardens, post flood
  • We object to the proposal for an out of town retail development on Low Road

For more information on these and other activities, please read on.

Freddie Gick, Chair of Civic Voice, visits us.

Freddie Gick, Chair of Civic Voice, spent the day with us in Cockermouth on 16th March. We started the day with a Civic Trust member’s meeting. Freddie informed us about Civic Voice, its future & its relationship with local civic societies. Freddie’s term of office ends near the end of this year, as will a number of other trustees, so we can expect significant change at the top.

We then gave a presentation on what we have been doing locally and our local concerns. Freddie took these away to share with other societies. Not surprisingly, flooding, flood defences and flood mitigation was prominent and Freddie undertook to determine if there was wider support for a meeting of Civic Societies from ‘flood towns’ to share and learn from experiences, and then to agree on any learning points that need to be a national focus at government level.

After a buffet lunch, we took Freddie on a walk around our town centre to reinforce his impressions of Cockermouth. He clearly was impressed, not least with the excellent weather!

War Memorial Workshop

After lunch, we hosted a War Memorial Workshop which Freddie Gick led. As well as some of our members, a number of people from other societies and councils in North Cumbria attended. During these centenary years of WW1, there is a national focus on improving the condition of our memorials and Civic Voice have been given the role of identifying memorials & undertaking simple condition surveys. There is national grant money available for repairs where needed. We undertook to do surveys on memorials in the Cockermouth locality, and there are more than you might think! The cenotaph in Cockermouth is a good example. We believe it hasn’t received significant maintenance for decades & you can see through from one side to the other where mortar should be!

John Dalton 250

The Civic Trust has taken the lead in ensuring that Cockermouth and Eaglesfield celebrate this year the 250th anniversary of the birth of John Dalton, our famous son. John Dalton is of course famous world wide for his contributions to the development of atomic theory, the science of meteorology and the understanding of colour blindness. Celebrations have already begun with the formal opening of the new ‘John Dalton Way’ when our Mayor, Julie Laidlow, unveiled the plaque at the start of the walk in Kings Arms Lane.

This walk was created by local walking group, ‘the Nuclear Striders’ who have also produced a booklet describing both the walk & the life of John Dalton.

In August, the Cockermouth Heritage Group will have their annual summer exhibition at the Kirkgate Centre which this year will feature John Dalton as well as WW1 centenary material.

The actual anniversary is around the 5th or 6th September, so we have decided to include a John Dalton 250 weekend as part of Heritage Open Days which run from 8th to 11th September this year. The plans now include:

  • A lecture on John Dalton at the Kirkgate Centre on the Friday at 7.30pm by Tom Smith, author of the book ‘John Dalton, a Cumbrian Philosopher’. Free tickets now available.
  • An accompanying exhibition by the Heritage Group on the Friday evening and Saturday
  • An exhibition on the Saturday in Eaglesfield Village Hall on John Dalton and historic Eaglesfield, with refreshments. Organised by Eaglesfield Village Hall Committee.
  • A self guided walk round Eaglesfield on the Saturday, with Children’s quiz, organised by the Village Hall Committee.
  • Open day at John Dalton Memorial Church, St Philips, Eaglesfield, on the Saturday.
  • Two guided walks along the John Dalton Way from Cockermouth to Eaglesfield, led by the Nuclear Striders, on the Saturday at 10am and 12.30pm.
  • Transport between Cockermouth & Eaglesfield on the Saturday by vintage bus organised by Workington Transport Heritage Group.
  • An exhibition in the Eco Centre by Cockermouth School on the development of science since the time of John Dalton.

Heritage Open Days, 8th to 11th September 2016

In addition to the John Dalton 250 activities already described, there following will be open:

– Banks Ironmongers

– Percy House

– Masonic Hall – John Dalton Lodge

– Friend’s Meeting House – exhibition  of the Quaker response to the Military Service Act, 1916.

(all of the above on the Saturday).

– Isel Hall on the Thursday & Friday

The exhibition at the Friend’s Meeting House will be particularly worth a visit as it will be a once only event as part of the WW1 centenary. Quakers and members of other peace churches suffered imprisonment under the Militia Acts of the 18th & 19th centuries. However, it was the Military services Act of 1916 that encouraged Quakers to challenge conscription. This meant facing imprisonment for their beliefs or accepting alternative service on the land, in hospitals or doing relief work. This display will include part of the Quaker Service exhibition which illustrates alternatives to violence.

Carlisle  & Lanercost Priory, Tueday July 5th

Our annual trip this year is closer to home with a walking tour round historic Carlisle in the morning and a guided visit to Lanercost Priory in the afternoon. Total cost per person will be £21, (English Heritage members £18). Tickets are limited to 25 so please apply early, some were disappointed last year. Full details of the itinerary are are on the enclosed ticket application form but in summary we will have:

  • A morning walking tour lasting 1½ hours, led by Carol Donnelly, arranged by Carlisle Civic Trust
  • Free time for lunch in Carlisle
  • Tour of Lanercost Priory & Dacre Hall led by John Lee – who promises an entertaining tour!
  • Afternoon refreshments in Dacre Hall, included.

The breakdown of costs is coach £10, Lanercost entry £3 (group), tour guide pm £3, refreshments pm £5. The latter 2 will help support the ‘Parochial Village Hall’. The Carlisle tour is on a reciprocal basis for a future Carlisle CT visit to Cockermouth.

Castle Tours

We reported the landslip on the castle mound in the last newsletter and the work that had already been undertaken to protect the mound from further erosion. We understand that no visible damage has occurred to the walls or buttresses and engineering assessments are ongoing. We also understand that consideration is being given to additional protection to the castle mound at river level. We have agreement from Lord & Lady Egremont to continue with our 2016 programme of castle tours, but have jointly reviewed the risk assessment for the visits. As a result, and pending the outcome of the engineering assessments, we have introduced limited access restrictions. These should not interfere significantly with the visits apart from not including the Mirk Kirk in the tours.

What is interesting is that the problem is not something new. I quote from Bernard Bradbury:

‘In addition to three 15C buttresses on the north wall, 3 large ones were built between the Round & Kitchen towers in 1752 because the bank gave way and ‘parted from the wall”.

‘In 1755, a water ‘wear’ was built to prevent the River Derwent from undermining and washing away the Castle Hill’.

Daffodil Day

We were very happy to support the inaugural Daffodil Day, organised by Rotary. We had a stall inside All Saints Church for the day where we displayed information on our activities and sold some of our books.

We also led 3 ‘History Walks’ from All Saints Church to Wordsworth House. We ran all 3 walks but the turnout was quite small due to the atrocious weather on the day.

Local Heritage Listing Progress

The good news first. Allerdale BC seem to have now agreed the process for considering nominations for local listing, and as such, they are ready to begin the process of compiling a pilot list based on Cockermouth & District, as submitted by ourselves. Now the (very) bad news. Allerdale BC in their wisdom have decided that the List should exclude anything within a Conservation Area as they believe that properties & other aspects within Conservation Areas are already adequately protected by their conservation area status. The real reason is to seek to save officer time & money, not an unreasonable objective in itself.

We believe that this decision is flawed in that Conservation Area status and Local Listing provide different types of protection and protection provided to a heritage asset through listing is not necessarily automatically provided by the asset being in a Conservation Area. The role of the Conservation Area is to protect the quality and special interest of the neighbourhood as a whole, rather than specific buildings; whereas the role of local listing is to protect individual buildings or aspects of an area, whether or not they lie within a Conservation Area.

The Good Practice Guide for Local Listing states:

‘Heritage assets can be added to a local heritage list regardless of whether they are sited in conservation areas. Nonetheless, conservation area appraisals and management plans may provide a useful starting point for the preparation of a local list. One aspect of the appraisal process with particular relevance to local heritage listing is the identification of unlisted buildings that make a ‘positive contribution’ to the character of a conservation area’

We have submitted 19 nominations to Allerdale of which 17, (89%), lie within a Conservation Area. These 19 were simply based on a brainstorm of our members on what they considered important to list in our town and environs. From our perspective, excluding Conservation Areas is not an option.

Allerdale BC have left the door slightly ajar, in that they said that they might reconsider with experience and review if the actual impact on officer time is not unduly onerous. We will therefore offer them an olive branch for them to review our nominations outside of Conservation Areas, then undertake a joint review.

Assets of Community Value.

Allerdale BC have rejected our application for the United Reformed Church Rooms to be declared an ‘asset of community value’. The rejection was on the basis that the community use of the building is not the ‘main purpose’ of the building, this being as a place of worship. We are well aware that assets of community value can only be applied to the main purpose of a building. We are also obviously aware that the design purpose of the URC buildings is as a place of worship. However, the buildings are actually used, time-wise, significantly more for community use than worship and this was the basis of our application. So it comes down to interpretation of what ‘main use’ means. There is no right of appeal so we do not intend to progress this any further.

Annual Lunch

Around 20 of us had an excellent lunch at Hundith Hill this year and our guests of honour were the Mayor & ‘Mayoress’. The Mayor, Julie Laidlow, gave our after dinner speech and she talked about her year in office. In conversation, Julie suggested that we put a formal proposal to the Town Council again that they reconsider having a town flag. This we did, but the Council rejected it, 7 to 3, split along party lines. We still feel that having a town flag would be good for our town but it needs Town Council support. We asked the Council to consider the concept & not have preconceived ideas on the design. However, they dug out our previous design concept & went immediately into detail why they didn’t like it.

Neighbourhood Plan

We were extremely disappointed that the Town Council  decided not to proceed with the development of a Neighbourhood Plan for the Town. Having such a plan in place would enable the community to have a say on how our town develops in the future. It would help determine where future housing developments are and avoid Strawberry How type controversies. It could help avoid inappropriate out of town retail developments that might prejudice our town centre of independent shops. We wrote to the Town Council to this effect and attended the Annual Parish Meeting with others to express our dissatisfaction and to offer our support & involvement for its development. Unfortunately, some council members did not seem to understand the concept of such a plan and naively seemed to think that all planning controversies are behind us & therefore a plan is superfluous. Another issue is that the Council have a rule that they will not reconsider a decision that they have made until after a minimum period of 6 months, unless 7 councillors sign a motion to do so.

We are conscious that there are people outside of the Civic Trust who feel the same way as us, both from responses to articles in the Times & Star and at the Cockermouth Parish Meeting.   We therefore have in mind establishing a 6 month project with others to scope out what a Neighbourhood Plan for Cockermouth might look like, what is involved in putting it together and how much it might cost. The object after 6 months would be to ask the Council to reconsider without being able to deny community support. If they fail to agree, the community will need to consider the way forward from there.

We do not have to start from scratch, there are approved Neighbourhood Plans out there. Morpeth is a good example. Its a market town of 14,000 inhabitants, with independent shops & significant flood risk.

Town Centre Projects

Cumbria County Council are not talking to us, or to the people of Cockermouth either. We had meetings last year when promises were made on work to be done & to keep us informed. Now we are sitting with unanswered letters. Are they going to install a storm drain from Main Street or are they quietly forgetting their unfulfilled investment. Are they going to repair & adopt Market Place whilst maintaining the character achieved with the street and art work. Who knows other than Cumbria County Council?

Spring Clean

Around a dozen members of the Civic Trust turned out to help spruce up the town before Daffodil Day along with Allerdale BC and others. We cleared stones off the Memorial Gardens to allow grass cutting. We removed flood debris from the Eastern side of the Gardens along the river front. We planted flowers in Main Street planters. We cleaned seats in Market Place

Riverside Footpath

Footpaths in the Memorial Gardens are the responsibility of the Town Council. The footpath on the south side, on our town trail, apparently belongs to the individual houses. We are therefore looking at ways to get this path repaired. We are also seeking to get the path adopted by Cumbria County Council as a formal public right of way.
Planning Permissions

We have objected to the proposal for a retail development behind The Lakes Centre on Low Road. It lacks detail and we feel Cockermouth needs an out of town retail development like a hole in the head. It goes against the national need to revitalise town centres like ours. We would support development of this brown field site  but an industrial use would provide a broader employment base for the town’s population.

Civic Day, 18th May

We have an extra castle tour this year for ‘Civic Day’.

And Finally:

Thanks to Brian Coley for all of his excellent photos for the Civic Trust.

Phil Campbell, Chairman