CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
By David Wyles
I start by thanking colleagues on the committee and our members for their contribution to the many and various events we organised over the year. The range of work, from speaker events to the town centre clean up, from environmental workshops to participation in partnerships such as Discover Huddersfield, has demonstrated that HCS is a strong and influential ‘voice’ for the town.
Sadly, one of HCS’s leading members, former President Richard Ward, who had been instrumental in driving, guiding and initiating many elements of our work over many years, passed away in September 2019.
In July 2019 Kirklees Council unveiled its Blueprint for the town centre. Amidst growing concerns and, indeed, despair regarding the declining fortunes of the centre, HCS played an active role in submitting its views and establishing a working dialogue with senior Council officers. Proposals were augmented by other initiatives regarding shopfront and highway improvements and whilst there have been disagreements concerning specific details and frustration over slow progress, the society is pleased to have established itself as a ’critical friend’ of the Council.
Finally, I should like to emphasise the society’s broadening goals in respect of our work and the town’s future. In the past, civic societies have concentrated to a very large degree on the built heritage of their areas of interest. By recognising that heritage alone will not preserve or enhance the town for citizens of today and the future, HCS has expanded its remit to encompass issues including transport, the climate emergency, partnership with other organisations and improved communications. The following resume outlines this broader approach and at the end I summarise some of the challenges for 2020 and beyond.
Planning and Development Issues
Detailed comments have been submitted to Kirklees regarding several major applications, namely:
Castle Hill. Objections and concerns lodged and publicised with regard to both the current proposals and the manner by which Kirklees Council has dealt with significant changes to the planning application as an amendment to previous plans. Co-ordination has also taken place with other groups and organisations opposed to the proposals.
George Hotel. Support for the application for hotel and ancillary uses. However, HCS appreciates that the viability of the scheme will be undermined, unless those proposals to link the station and St George’s Square to the railway warehouse and adjacent land are implemented, as suggested in the Blueprint.
The website, launched in January 2019, has recorded a healthy level of visitors (2008 who viewed 3,859 pages). It is regularly updated with photos, news, event details, planning updates, town centre initiatives and other information. Facilities for the purchase of HCS publications and membership have improved and corporate members have benefitted from the addition of logos and links to their business web sites.
Improvements have continued in updating and revising our membership list and circulating information such as the membership card and programme and events information. Further publicity is achieved through HCS’s key role in the Discover Huddersfield partnership and Kirklees Heritage Open Days committee (see below).
Speakers and Events
Our programme ranged from the annual joint HCS/University lecture on the ground-breaking development at Eddington, Cambridge to informative talks concerning electric vehicles and infrastructure, opportunities for improving transport systems, the photographic archive of Harry Bray and Huddersfield finest buildings. The well-attended workshop on town centre master planning, the trip to Johnson Wellfield quarries and the day visit to Sheffield, including an eye-opening tour of the regeneration of Kelham Island, all made for a stimulating mix. In addition, nominations were sought for completed developments in the 2019 Design Awards, the winners of which will be announced at a later date.
I have represented HCS on a number of committees, particularly Discover Huddersfield and Kirklees Heritage Open Days. These are working committees, the former producing free themed trails (currently numbering 16) and an annual programme of walks; the latter a programme of (in 2019) 68 events and venues, many not usually open to the public, as part of the national Heritage Open Days festival in September. The DH walks’ programme attracted an average of 29.5 people per walk while HOD events attracted over 5,000 people with 1,100 people visiting new sites.
Our books, particularly The Villas of Edgerton and The Buildings of Huddersfield continue to sell steadily and have helped raise our profile. Improved methods of selling via the web site have recently been implemented.
Many of our committee members are involved with other organisations, particularly in relation to cultural, environmental and transport matters and these links enable HCS to co-ordinate, share ideas and receive intelligence on issues affecting the town.
Whilst I believe much progress has been made and HCS remains a unique force in promoting and highlighting Huddersfield’s civic pride there are a number of key areas which I hope can be pursued:
And finally, to achieve the above, I would welcome support from individual members. Some of our joint working initiatives, e.g. Discover Huddersfield and Heritage Open Days, operate through small, enthusiastic committees and volunteers. If you have an interest in specific areas of work and have a few hours a month to provide practical support, please contact me.