Minutes of the LVRA Meeting: 20.00 hrs. on Monday, 11 December 2017 at the Top Club
Present: Karen Hawden (Chair), Bob, Nicholas (Footpaths Officer), Darryl Nugent (Treasurer); Richard Ball, Ian Booth, David Cairns, Ian Cardy, Ann Corkin, David Corkin, David Foxcroft Peter Holt, Michael Howard, Ken Iveson, Lewis Pearson, Eric Walton, Barbara Walton and Ann White.
1. Opening Remarks – Apologies – Thanks
1.1 Karen opened the meeting welcoming all who braved the weather.
1.2 Apologies were received from David Hempsall (Secretary), David Rhodes (Liaison and Social Media Officer); Cllr Alyson Barnes, Marie Hargreaves, John Mansergh, David Pilling, Jean Pilling, Paul Spurr and Bett Watson.
2. Minutes of previous Meeting, 13 November 2017
2.1 Lewis proposed and Eric seconded acceptance of the Minutes.
2.2 The Minutes were taken as a true record.
3. Matters Arising
3.1. Ullswater Way – Barbara pointed out that the unruly behaviour previously report still continued. People were seen running around half naked. Police have been informed and are monitoring the situation and making their presence known.
3.2 Break-ins – No further break-ins were reported. A keypad had been prized off a house wall but the perpetrator was unable to access any codes.
4.1 Chairman – Karen attended Crawshawbooth Primary school opening of its outdoor classroom. The event was a success and the school was keen to make people aware that the outdoor classroom is for community use and not restricted to the school.
The school has received a positive Ofsted report. The inspector noted the high speed of some vehicles on the main road.
Speeds as high as 83 mph on the A682 have been reported during recent monitoring.
Darryl reported that there was a three-car collision near the New Waggoners earlier on in the month. David F added that he understood that there had been one fatality in this incident. Lewis added his concern about the speed and noise of traffic.
4.2 Secretary – In David’s absence, Darryl read out a report provided by him (shown as Annex 1).
4.3 Treasurer/Chairman LVAA – Darryl reported no change in the LVRA finances and also that the allotments were now inactive due to the season.
4.4 Footpaths Officer – Bob’s report is shown in full as Annex 2.
4.5 Social Media & Liaison Officer – There was no report submitted from the SML Officer due to illness.
4.6 LVEG – There was no report submitted from LVEG.
Bob’s report is shown as Annex 3.
David F added that he was on the judging panel for Crawshawbooth/Goodshaw regarding the inclusion of Community Assets. He will bring information packs to January’s meeting. Darryl suggested adding the current Asset List to the LVRA
Facebook/web pages prior to the January meeting to encourage residents to consider possible Community Assets for inclusion, allowing the association to get this matter off to a positive start in 2018.
6. St John’s
Bob’s report is shown as Annex 4.
Richard asked if it was possible to preserve the tower or if the whole building was to be lost. It was generally thought unlikely that part of a Grade II building could be demolished.
David F will email a contact for an update on identifying any party interested in purchasing the church building.
7. Any Other Business
Karen asked for names of any users of the footpath alongside St Mary’s. Names will be given to Bob who has agreed to help complete the necessary forms.
David C asked why Commercial Street had not been gritted beyond the start of the houses. David F agreed to take the matter up with LCC/RBC together with discussion about other “missed” streets. Ian B asked that the salt/grit bins be kept topped up during the icy periods.
Ian Cardy announced that the Village Centre and Library had been successfully transferred from LCC to the Community and that the library would reopen shortly.
There was great appreciation for this news from the members.
8. Next Meetings and Close
8.1 20.00 hrs. on Monday, 8 January 2018 at the Top Club.
8.2 Thereafter the now usual pattern of utilising the 2nd Monday of each month will continue, so that meetings in 2018 are expected to be held as follows: 12 February, 12 March, 9 April, 14 May, 11 June, 9 July, 13 August, 10 September, 8 October, 12 November (including AGM) and 10 December.
8.3 The meeting closed at 8.45pm.
Annex 1 Secretary’s Report
I am grateful to Darryl for standing for me at this meeting which, each year, clashes with an annual church commitment to which I have to give priority; so my apologies to the meeting for my absence.
I have but three short items on which to report.
First, delivery of the Limey Leader to the printer fell behind schedule when a couple of essential contributions arrived just a tad late. Printing was, therefore, delayed as the Leader took up a new place in the production schedule. None the less, it is a bumper, 16-page issue. The Leader is evolving into something more than just a record of development which is appropriate, given the much greater immediacy of social media. Some hard work in securing advertising means that this issue will realise a small of surplus of about £40.00. More help in getting advertising is needed.
Secondly, I have been kept abreast of developments – and the lack of them – at The Glory. Having received some quite alarmed observations from residents about additional work going on at the site, I contacted Richard Elliott, RBC’s Enforcement Officer. Richard is entirely sympathetic and is, I suspect, appreciative of residents’ keeping an eye on the development. In response to my raising the lack of any discernible progress by the developer in implementing the terms of the Planning Inspector’s ruling that the original western boundary of the site be restored by the removal of spoil which has been dumped to produce an extended plateau, Richard commented that enforcement could only occur when the time-limit had been reached and there remains some time before that is reached. Rest assured, LVRW will continue (a) to monitor and (b) to liaise with the Enforcement Officer.
Thirdly, I have received a number of inputs about St John’s on which Bob will speak later as Item 6. I have some experience of dealing with Victorian churches, including some in a state of advanced decay. Bob will say his piece and the meeting will be well advised to listen. My own view remains as noted in the Minutes of the previous meeting under Item 6.2.
In closing, let me reiterate a comment I have made in the past. The festive season will soon be upon us and past precedent suggests that this is a time of the year – like the long school summer holidays – when the unscrupulous try to smuggle things past us, imagining that our guard is down. It isn’t. In the words so appropriate to Advent: watch and wait!
Annex 2 Footpaths Officer’s Report
In the current issue of the Limey Leader I have put out another appeal for anyone who has used the track at the side of the Church burial ground below St Mary’s and All Saints Church Goodshaw along with a picture to help identify the path. The reason is that the take-up of “evidence of use on foot forms” has been so far slow and disappointing. I’m sure there are far more people in the community who have used this track than have come forward and I hope the picture will jog people’s memories.
Recently Folly Clough Bridge has been a topic in some of my reports. The track which crosses the bridge and links Goodshaw Lane and Bottomley Bank Road (known as Donkey Lane) is the course of a public footpath. The track in fact is used by not only walkers but also cyclists, horse riders, motor vehicles and farm transportation and its classification does in no way meet the criteria of use. I have therefore decided in the coming year to submit a change of use Modification Order on this track reclassifying as a Bridleway Open to All Traffic (or BOAT for short). This classification will suit the usage of the track more and also give the area another much needed bridleway even if it is a short one. There is another reason for this Modification Order and that is to raise awareness of the situation with the bridge to the wider public. As the subject of Folly Clough Bridge is becoming inexorably linked to CAST (Community Assets Standing Tall) on the 25th November I attended what was termed a training day at Bacup. CAST is on tonight’s agenda (Item 5) and I will be giving a report on the situation to-date (cf Annex 3).
Annex 3 CAST
As I stated in my Footpaths report, on Saturday 25th November I attended a CAST training course in Bacup along with Tony Craig from the Friends of Folly Clough Bridge. The fact that only Tony turned up was a disappointment as the meeting was in the FFCB’s interest and first-hand information is better than second. The meeting itself was very positive and some of my misgivings about CAST were dispelled as the organisation appears to be well set up and funded. I came away with a good deal of information and a forty eight page manual (sent on line). The information supplied contains details of registering and adopting a community asset, identifying the suitability for listing of an asset, setting up groups to put forward and manage the nominated assets and an explanation of CAST and Valley Heritage in a nutshell.
However the bottom line is not the number of meetings there are or the amount of documents there are on this subject. What counts is getting the potential local historic assets nominated for the Local Community Heritage Asset Register. Within the local area there are (with all due respect) a substantial number of incomers to the community who perhaps do not have the knowledge of the area’s historic past and various buildings and structures. But there are also a good many folk who have lived in the area for a considerable time and among them there are people with an interest in the history and heritage of the area. It is for these people to come forward and help with this project. If local people do not know the amount of potential assets in the area I will at the next meeting provide a list. It is from this list for anyone interested to pick an asset they would like to nominate or put forward something that they believe has been missed. It does not take a PhD to fill in the forms and help is available: it is just a matter of becoming pro-active to help secure the long term future of the historic buildings and structures in our area.
Annex 4 St John’s Church, Crawshawbooth
During the last month I received the following email and attachment from Rossendale Civic Trust. Neither makes good reading. It would appear that the Church has, barring some miracle, reached a point of no return from being lost. The email is as follows: “The story in a nutshell is long and sad. I fear the Grade ll* Listing on St John’s Church has backfired, and rather than be used as a tool to get funding, it has been used as a reason for NOT developing the building. The reasoning behind this is a highly complex debate which is rattling around in bigger circles than ours, and with other buildings than St John’s. But Rossendale needs to be careful where it (the Council and its advisers) goes from here.
The one certain thing is that we will never have the entire unity of the building and its interior fittings back again, no matter who buys it and no matter what use it may be put to; and that is without looking at the stability and management of the stream and ongoing erosion. This indeed could go on for some time yet and not have anything like a happy outcome. We can only follow the existing procedures and see what can be salvaged; at the moment that is all in the hands of the Diocese as owners.”
The attachment that I received alongside the email is really too long to read through at this meeting. It does give the background of the situation with the church and brings matters up to date. For anyone interested, the attachment I received is copied in full below this report and will appear in the Minutes of this meeting and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or contents.
On a final note if the Church is to be lost, then perhaps the bell tower could be saved! This scenario is not uncommon with quite a few examples of this type, one being Christ the King Church on Manchester Road in Burnley. The bell tower is an eye catching feature and could be part of a sympathetically designed new development or preserved on its own. The Church is indeed an iconic structure and it would be a shame if it was all to be totally lost.
A short background to St. John’s Church, Crawshawbooth
St John’s has never been an easy church to maintain; my great Uncle John Pickup was treasurer from the 1930s until 1957 and I have a lot of his papers, mainly rescued from the church after it closed. My family went there for all of its life. Right from the beginning the building was done on a grand scale and in the spirit of the Victorian age which thought people and finances would go on improving forever.
The three main problems that have always existed were heating, access and the fact that it was built on wet ground. The stream that had previously fed a lodge was diverted down the side to the river, and cotton bales were sunk to stabilise the site of the tower. (That is why it was only allowed to have one bell.)
In the days when the Church was the main social centre, everybody joined in and stoking the boilers with coal and pumping the organ were regular accepted jobs. The organ went to electrical control in the1920s but I don’t know when they got a gas boiler. Even by the 1930s they were struggling; this was picked up by Marshall Brooks, the last great personal benefactor, in the1940s when he was in his 80s and warned the younger generation that it was going to be their problem. (Much later, in the 1980s, there were still enough people around with family and sentimental attachments to the church to raise £20k to cure an outbreak of dry rot; but as they have now died off or moved away, the emotional appeal has gone with them.)
I don’t know exactly when the present vehicle access went in; it certainly wasn’t there originally. It would have been somewhere around the 1960s when cars became more universally owned and people got worried about using the steep little path from the gate on Burnley Road, especially for weddings and funerals, but it is debatable if that access would have been granted by today’s standards.
In the 1950s everybody was a bit casual in their approach and did things cheaply; the church was not a Listed Building then, and even if it had been, it is doubtful that anybody would have listened to advice. In the 1950s they took the lead off the aisle roofs, deliberately, because they needed money and because insurance premiums had rocketed; there were thieves about even then. The misdemeanours continued ever after; it was all down to cost and ‘who you knew’ – things were done by local builders who stuck a bit of cement in here and there and patched as needed; even after it was Listed (Grade II) in 1971 they put PVC drainpipes in (which were too small and probably contributed to on-going problems with water ingress).
There were many other actions that accumulatively spelt doom; the old heating system of large pipes and radiators was taken out and sold for scrap; (it has been proved since in other churches that these can be heated by modern boilers and are still the most effective system): there was hesitation about putting a toilet in, and this came to a head in the 1990s when Listing regulations kicked in and siting one inside or a separate block outside became a matter of intense debate. The Vicar, Wendy, brought in a group of ‘Community’ designers who, despite the guidance from the then advisors, English Heritage, proposed a most outrageously unsympathetic scheme, which was in any case deemed too expensive and thrown out. Wendy also instigated a fancy new heating system, which was ugly, still horribly expensive to run and absolutely no good.
Another contributing factor was the (again ill-advised) selling off by the Diocese of Sunnyside House as their Conference Centre. This not only cut down on regular use but, in selling off the car park at the bottom of the grounds, removed vital parking space. Together, these three factors were the main reasons for lack of use in the 2000s, especially as a place for concerts and community gatherings, and have been the basis of its major problems ever since.
The last congregation of St. Johns always struggled to pay its dues to the Diocese and never failed, despite this taking vital funds away from the upkeep of the building.
The fact that its Listing was upgraded to Grade II* in the early 2000s, which made it eligible for grant funding was never explored; by that time it had become a millstone round the congregation’s neck, and the theft of lead and roof tiles caused damage and expense that, ageing and battle-weary, they were just not prepared to face. As St. John’s shared its parish with Goodshaw, and Goodshaw was easier, as a simple building, to adapt for purpose and maintain, the congregation took the inevitable step of pulling out of St. John’s, at which point its maintenance reverted to the Diocese. The Diocese has failed miserably to meet its obligations as owners of a Listed building, but is not the only body answerable for the present situation.
Shortly after closure, a potential buyer, John Metcalf, teamed up with the architect who had been responsible for the building for many years (Chris Langstone). Between them they put forward a plausible scheme for converting it to a conference and training centre for study, and practice, of alternative heating. Between them they produced an application which was not acceptable to Rossendale Borough Council, or Lancashire County as the Highway Authority. Chris Langstone’s approach was an old-fashioned one, but he did take advice and re-wrote it. John Metcalf may also have come over as rather casual, but far worse schemes from maybe less qualified (but probably not less experienced) proposers have gone through successfully in other places, and at other times.
Both tried again and again to meet Rossendale and County’s requirements, and to a certain extent, and with a bit of good will, it could have come off; but the fact that they were denied a chance even to get off the starting blocks led to continuing neglect, vandalism and deterioration. Their scheme was a sympathetic one which would have retained all the important features and open spaces within the building; John Metcalf was well aware of the problem of the bad ground and collapsing culvert; he was willing to do necessary repairs to the stream bed. He also researched the original heating system and proposed using the same underfloor piping routes for minimal disruption. However, he suggested using former shipping containers for accommodation of fuel storage and toilets; covered with creeping plants; this could have worked. In fact, none of the Statutory Consultees at national level objected: they all wanted to save the main building as best they could, yet this too was rejected by Rossendale Council.
It has been rumoured that proposals for conversion to housing have been made, but nothing has ever come forward as a full application. If it had, the greater disruption to the originality of the building would surely also have brought serious objections.
In March 2015 a major meeting was held in the church with local and national representatives; a scheme for new access, accepting loss of bushes and poor quality trees was put forward, and the Church Commissioners requested a full repairs survey and costing. This came out in 2016 with an estimate of £2m. By this time, further deterioration and continuing break-ins had caused irreplaceable losses of originality, and Metcalf and Langstone had given up the unequal fight.
In February 2017 I was called out by the Police to whom I gave both Council and Diocese contact details; in May I again saw Police attending the building and again gave them the same information. On this visit I noted that nearly all moveable interior features had gone and dry rot was even more rampant than before. Following this, efforts were made by the Dioceses to ’tin up’ windows to prevent access.
Where we go from here remains to be seen, but the loss of opportunities to save, or at least stem the tide of destruction on the building, must be regretted.