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Easter has at long last greeted us with a warm smile as we welcome you to another Civic Society Year. This Spring Newsletter reviews the past twelve months and outlines our programme of coming events.
The Society has been mixing business and pleasure as we carefully followed and contributed to Council Plans, Consultations and future developments. This issue includes our views on Northampton House at the top of Station Road, Ferndale, along the Headlands, and the Art Deco façade that once graced the entrance to A. E. Smith’s old garage. Of special importance is the town centre re development.
A Design Guide to give style appearance to new developments in the town has been pressed for. The illustrations which you will have seen around the town and on Council information sheets prepared by local illustrator, Chris Prout, show development proposals in a good light. The common style as well as careful use of colour offer positive and creative series of proposals which could help our town re-emerge from the 1960’s and 70’s demolition days. The Council has identified sixteen special projects.
Having enjoyed our Civic Dinner followed by a fascinating talk on 78 Derngate (Northampton) we now plan another social year for members and friend’s pleasure which you will be kept informed upon.
The Chairman and Committee
would like to extend our thanks to all our members for their continued
support of the Society and its aims and objectives.
Chairman’s Report 2009
Following the principles of our Constitution, our Society continues to have an operational side specifically monitoring and commenting on the “Civic Scene”. The role we are working hard to fulfil is now perhaps the most important since our founding. Our social side is active and is included in our Secretary’s Report.
The damage done to the town centre in building the Newland Centre and starting the towns inner ring road has taken many years to simply accept. Some 40 years have gone by and the general decline of the town centre frequently draws adverse comments.
A succession of Council Officers now has a team anxious to set about repairing and moving on again, “Which came first, evolution or invention?”
The Society has become well aware of the sixteen projects the Borough plans to implement in the town centre, each of which has potential character opportunities to start to heal the damage created 40 years ago.
Our relationship with the Borough Council is now friendly and positive. The Society is being consulted on the town centre proposals, the most notable ones have been on the Market Place and its timeline. Our views are on our web site. The first phase of the new Market Place rebuilding was opened by Faryl Smith on 30th August. We keep pressing for a Design Guide which was originally agreed to by Maurice Bayes during his time as Mayor. It is still awaited.
Comments have been made to the Council on the illustrations prepared by Chris Prout all of which have presented future development proposals extremely well. It has been suggested to the Council that an appropriate illustration accompany site development briefs.
One of our special projects is “Saving the Mosaic”. Fund raising has been quietly on going both to repay the Council’s loan and to have the mosaic put back on display. As a way of improving our fundraising the Society applied for and secured “Charitable Status” during the year. Our Constitution was amended at a special meeting in July to enable us to make the application. Work is now required to explore the various donating avenues. This must be one of our priorities as well as other fundraising.
During the year “Civic Trust” ceased to operate causing some national concern. It had been an important voice able to lobby at the highest levels. Financial difficulties had been the cause of its closure. Its leaders remained loyal to its principles and are working hard to establish “Civic Voice”. Details of this emerging organisation were discussed at our Annual General Meeting.
The financial difficulties being experienced by the country have also brought into question the future of English Heritage.
Civic scene buildings and roads we have actively commented upon have included, “Ferndale” the first house to be built in the Headlands. We opposed its demolition and replacement with flats. We spoke at the Planning Enquiry which followed and the Inspector dismissed the Appeal.
The Planning Application to demolish Northampton House at the top of Station Road was objected to and Planners recommended refusal of the application. A watching brief has been maintained on “Crossways” at the corner of Hawthorn Road and Headlands also Elm Bank where building work is on going.
As part of the Town Centre Proposals, a Traffic Plan has been prepared by Consultants which principally aims to make the town centre a pedestrian zone. It proposes to relocate the Sheep Street bus stops to the Horse Market and move the Taxis to Sheep Street which forms the key part of the plan. The Traffic Plan is a part of the second phase of the Market Place Area Development which almost exclusively is for buses and taxis.
The Society objected to the pedestrianisation and the Horse Market bus terminus. We did however support the development plan and materials.
As part of the Market Place Plan, a Planning Application has been made to build restaurants and flats parallel to the Church drive where a hotel and shops once stood. Planning Approval was granted although we commented on the new building’s appearance. Chris Prout prepared an illustration following our comments which improved the situation quite a lot. There is now a Planning Application to alter the Church wall and remove the gates.
We have attended Council Executive Meetings, Planning Policy Meetings and the Kettering Town Centre Forums during the year. Two issues were important, firstly the 5,5000 new houses in the Eastern District which included a new junction/interchange on the A14 and possible sale of the London Road Car Park to ASDA. We had little influence on the housing but stopped the ASDA scheme. At present, it is understood negotiations are well advanced to take over the Co-Operative store at the end of Northfield Avenue. The Co-Operative movement played an important part in Kettering life and it would be sad to see this store go.
Though not related to the Co-Operative Culture, North Northamptonshire Enterprise held a “Cultural Future Priorities for North Northants” workshop at the Conference Centre which we attended. It is hard to make a comment on the outcome!
Similarly our licensing objection to Tesco opening a store between Harry Potter House and the Catholic Church proved unsuccessful!
Since the founding of the Civic Society, correspondence, books, photographs etc. have been saved and by kind permission of Wicksteed’s Trust, they have been stored at Barton Hall. Since its closure and possible sale, our archive boxes have gone to a temporary home. It is now becoming important that a proper home be found for them and we will be seeking our members help to do this.
About 10 years ago we attempted to have the original Tresham Institute College building listed. We were unsuccessful. At the time we suggested that the building be used by St Mary’s Hospital. Recently, Cransley Hospice has made a similar suggestion which we have attempted to support.
During the coming year, we will again be making our Rose Bowl Award. (At present it is in the Mayor’s Parlour). We will also be putting up one or two blue plaques.
May I thank our Secretary and Committee for their work throughout the past year. Finally thank you all for your support throughout the year and we look forward to an active civic and social activity during the coming year.
Secretary’s Report 2009
The Society’s social activities in 2009 began with the Annual Dinner on 13th March at Toller Meeting Hall. As always the venue and food was excellent and in the presence of the Mayor and consort, Lady Freeman, Deputy Mayor Ruth Groome, and Councillor Chris Groome. Guests were fascinated by the illustrated talk that was given by Dr Roy Harper on JA Gotch.
The Annual General Meeting took place at the Corn Market Hall on Wednesday 18th March. The Committee were re elected and were delighted to be joined by Rachael Aldridge.Over the year six coffee mornings were held at Toller Church and as ever the Society is grateful to Eleanor Patrick for being on hand to help and to Rachael for her delicious home baked cakes on each occasion. On average £50 profit was made each time. Preserves made from the produce of the Secretary’s allotment were also sold.
A quiz night was held at The Star Inn in Geddington when fun was had by all in the name of fundraising and the Society’s coffers were £78 richer.
A most enjoyable visit to the new Curve Theatre in Leicester took place on Saturday 28th March when a brilliant and novel interpretation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It was performed. The Society’s interest was twofold, as well as the entertainment factor it was enlightening to see Leicester’s state of the art theatre, designed by world renowned architect Rafael Vinoly, which is situated in the heart of the new Cultural Quarter on Rutland Street. The design of the building fascinated members so much so that a return visit to the theatre for a most intriguing behind the scenes tour of this amazing venue.
Continuing with a desire to explore different styles of architecture and design a trip to Eltham Palace and gardens on Sunday 14th June took place. This unique house combined the finest Art Deco home in England with the remains of a medieval and Tudor royal palace-the boyhood home of Henry VIII. The weather was fine and members were also able to explore the 19 acres of the beautiful gardens.
We returned to London for our annual trip to the Proms which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor ‘Choral’, and Stravinsky Orpheus was performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Members and friends enjoyed sunny walks and picnics in the park beforehand.
The Civic Society files were removed from Barton Hall to a temporary place whilst a new home for them is being sought. As files become more abundant the need for an office where they may be sorted and used as working documents and storage becomes urgent, and a plea to members for their assistance and ideas on this important matter in bringing this to fruition would be more than welcome.
In July the Society received a generous donation from Miss Malpas, a founder member who would have been 100 in November. The committee is considering how best to use this in her memory.
Efforts to encourage Faryl Smith to perform in a concert to raise money for the mosaic proved fruitless. Our hopes for reinstating the mosaic were unsuccessful in 2009. Time and expertise was still being sought from members in assisting in applying for grants.
The Rose Bowl Award took place on Wednesday 25th November and was awarded for the refurbishment of Chesham House. In the Borough’s Suite 16 re -development of Kettering Town Centre, the restoration of Chesham House was the first in the Suite to be completed (Kettering Market Place was the second to be completed). Chesham House is an important building in the town’s history; it was the home of the Gotch family and later used by Social Services.
Latterly the house was owned by Morrison’s and recognising its importance in the town, Kettering Borough Council purchased it. It was greatly in need of firstly restoration and secondly to be used for good purpose. The Council took the initiative and formed a partnership and strategic support was given by Northamptonshire Enterprise who funded the restoration and Northampton University who now use the building as a Business Link Start up Service.
On behalf of the Society, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire, Dr Ahmed Mukhtar made the presentation to Mayor Councillor Ruth Groome. Amongst other guests, were Dr Frank Burdett – Vice Chancellor, Northampton University and Professor Simon Denny of the Business School, University of Northampton.
The Chairman and committee members had been privileged to be invited by the Friend’s of the Alfred East Art Gallery to the launch of a new biography of Sir Alfred East by Paul Johnson & Kenneth McConkey.
Some members of the committee attended the Mayor’s Charity Concert at the Lighthouse Theatre on 27th November and this ended the Society’s social scene for 2009.
Many letters and emails were received regarding planning issues that would have been mentioned in the Chairman’s report.
Members were regularly kept up to date with planning issues and events and grateful thanks go to Rachael our new committee member for prompting and producing several Newsletters throughout the year.
Grateful thanks are extended to Roger Payne for continuing to update the web site, particularly attractive were the snow flakes that cascaded the Home page over the winter months.
The following are copies of letters sent to various council representatives by the Society requesting clarity on certain matters or to remind the council of values and matters that the Society feels are of great importance in the development of the town.
THE FORMER AE SMITH GARAGE - EBENEZER PLACE
You will recall that when the former coachworks/garage caught fire, we recall that you were caringly instrumental in having the stonework from the front saved. It was probably the buildings only special feature.
Recently, several people have approached the Civic Society to investigate where that stone may now be and could it be re used. If you are able to establish where the stone now is (Green Plant did the site clearance) perhaps it could be incorporated into one of the town’s future buildings?
As you will agree Planning and Conservation are important.
DESIGNS IN THE NEW TOWN CENTRE, INCLUDING THE SUITE SIXTEEN SITES
The Civic Society considers that the Borough Council made a very appropriate appointment in choosing Chris Prout to prepare the “Vision” illustrations. Each picture successfully creates a possible interpretation of what might be built around the town.
One of the features of these illustrations is that they have a common
identity which in itself makes for a visual unity to the character of the
town. They are both sympathetic to the town character but also suitably
Our purpose in writing to you is two fold
a) it is now more than ever vital that the illustrated design guide is produced. It was promised when Councillor Bayes was Mayor. Whilst the Rockingham Design Guide was helpful in some respects it shows the sort of content Kettering Design Guide should have. Additionally, colour and texture are so important.
b) It is strongly suggested that the development brief for each of the Suite Sixteen Sites should include a Chris Prout vision as to how the development should look. It is important to the town that it has its own distinguishing qualities and identity. Kettering is a unique place which we have the opportunity to reinstate after much of the original character was demolished.
We believe with your input and influence it can achieve its former glory!
PROPOSED IMPROVEMENTS TO MARKET STREET AND SHEEP STREET
The Civic Society supports in principal the improvements to both these
streets which form two of the containing sides of the Heritage Quarter.
The regeneration is so important to the town’s future.
There are great concerns over moving the Heritage Quarter bus stops to the Horse Market. The Horse Market really doesn’t serve any particular place or part of the town. It is however one of the Borough Councils most successful landscaping projects. The buses which call at the Horse Market (generally Shuttle buses) work well as does the taxi rank. Moving Taxis to Sheep Street would be inappropriate from the patron’s point of view. Whilst location 3 on the consultation plan works well in itself, it would destroy the space.
The Planning Investigation into “Buses” is very appropriate and needs to be viewed in a wider context. As Newland Street proves, bus stops can be filthy places and the Horse Market does not deserve that treatment. A greater use of the St Andrews/Eskdaill Terminus would be better and could be a larger multiple route stop possibly with a glazed structure.
It is important to retain traffic entering Sheep Street/Market Street for use of premises owners, shoppers, delivery vehicles and the disabled. It may be that Sheep Street could be the first stopping off point for the Shuttle service coming from the station?
However, there should be one very important ingredient “the route should be vehicle/pedestrian shared” with a speed limit of perhaps 15 mph. In this respect, Gold Street already works well.
To naturally enforce this combined use, the vehicle route should be clearly defined and possibly be as narrow as practical. This would partly discourage the use as through road and rate it as “access only” other than for buses.
There is one further very important vehicle issue and that is deliveries to ‘the Yards’. At present there are no plans for delivery. This is also the case in the High Street, Gold Street and Silver Street. Deliveries are vital for shops to succeed.
The provision for parking spaces is helpful though perhaps not for disabled people visiting the George Hotel!
Some time ago the Civic Society delivered to the Council details of London’s Exhibition Road. In this context there are four important points:-
Lighting: Strategically placed good quality lighting playing both an illuminating purpose and a sculptural role should be part of the design.
Landscaping: The Birch trees already planted encroach too far into the Market Place paving leaving a reduced space for some events. There is however, a need for some further planting both of trees and shrubs.
Property owners contribution: This would set out to improve the appearance of many of the properties. It may also be appropriate to make specific proposals and seek funding. For example, the whole front of Mr Ray’s building could be replaced. Planning Approval would never be granted for all the signs and the Corn Exchange/Cinema building. This needs addressing. The appearance/smell from the Kebab shop does not contribute well. The buildings enclosing the paving play a very important part.
Use of pavements for warm weather tables for drinking/selling coffee and teas: They are always welcome but too many would damage the setting and add responsibility for street cleaning.
The subject of buses and the Town Centre Road network is not included in Sheep Street/Market Street Consultation but the Civic Society would welcome making a contribution to this.
DEMOLITION OF NORTHAMPTON HOUSE
The Civic Society wish to object to the proposed demolition of Northampton House.
The building built by James Payne of Corby stands as a landmark at the junction of Northampton Road. The building was commenced in April 1910, almost one hundred years ago and a copy of the drawing held in the County Archive is enclosed out of interest.
The interest already taken by English Heritage and the Victorian Society in the buildings character as well as its history are important indicators of the buildings value.
The building appearance/architectural style are in keeping with the old Liberal Club, the Conservative Club, and part of the Railway Station which puts the building into a wider context. The Conservative Club is actually listed. Northampton House has a range of special brick features.
Historically, James Payne’s businesses included brick making, steel,
coal and building materials and Northampton House was built as offices for
his business and is a link to the railway.
The Civic Trust has a new Voice
Members may be aware of the demise at the end of 2009 of The Civic Trust.
The Trust was formed to help, advise and represent over 800 Civic Societies at a national level.
In its wake a new body called Civic Voice has been established to again offer support and advice to Civic Societies and to again represent the concerns of these societies at a national and Government level. The Chairman and Committee are aware of the advantages that this may bring, though to add our society to the membership does incur a charge. This is one of the areas that will be supported by the rise in membership fee from £10 to £12 in the coming financial year 2011-12 as discussed and agreed at the AGM.
An evening of culinary delights, good company and an interesting illustrated talk by Mr Ken Simpson from the 78 Derngate Northampton Trust was enjoyed by over forty members of the society within the inspiring surrounds of the Toller Meeting Rooms on March 12th. In the presence of the Mayor, Councillor Ruth Groome and her consort Councillor Chris Groome members were enlightened by the only extant house in England designed by the celebrated Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Around 1915/16 the house was owned by local entrepreneur W J Bassett Lowke and his wife.
Always at the forefront of new innovations and trends they decided to develop the existing Georgian terrace house into a modern dwelling by hiring the famed architect Rennie Mackintosh. Noted for his holistic approach the house was redesigned in its entirety with Mackintosh designing everything from the wall paper to the light fittings and taps.
In the early 1990s the house was under threat of demolition and the Derngate Trust was founded to save the building and reform it to its former glory.
Today the Trust opens the award winning 78 Derngate to the public and having acquired two neighbouring buildings has a dedicated exhibition space to the life and work of Bassett –Lowke as well as housing The Dining Room, The gallery upstairs and a gift and craft shop. If you have not already done so, a visit to this gem is highly recommended as are the refreshments! More information can be found at www.78derngate.org.uk or by telephoning 01604 603407.
President: Lady Freeman (Dipl Cons (AA)) Chairman: Paul Ansell, Dip Arch RIBA
Vice Chairman: Robert Mercer
Secretary: Monica Özdemir
If you would like to know more about membership of the Society click here or email the secretary