Leicester Civic Society
Chairman's Report May 2016

03 May 2016


1.20141478 & 20152152: VICTORIA PARK CENTENARY WALK: I have written to seek clarification of the details. 20141478 specified 71 trees to be felled, 49 planted as part of the processional route and more planted elsewhere around the park, though this didn’t specify how many. Apparently it was then felt that some of the trees to the front of De Montfort Hall would not survive the construction period, and because they were relatively young and immature specimens, it would be better in the long term to remove and plant anew. Many of these trees would have required future removal anyway because the area would require thinning to allow other new trees to grow effectively. (This is a standard practice of woodland management)

20152152 included a site clearance plan indicating the areas of tree removal. This was for 84 trees, 13 more than originally stipulated for the reason given above. However, there will now be 79 new trees planted as part of the processional route, works along Granville Road and to the front of De Montfort Hall instead of the 49 stipulated in the original planning application. In addition, there have been 25 trees already planted elsewhere around the park in January and February this year.

To summarise: 20141478 allowed for 71 felled and 49 planted = Nett loss of 22 trees. 20152152 allows for 84 felled and 79 planted = Nett loss of 5 trees. 25 new trees have also been planted elsewhere in the park this year. However, there are lessons to be learned:

  • 20141478 attracted three comments, all in favour. There is no point in potential objectors saying nothing and then violently objecting nearly two years afterwards. Everyone worried about trees should study all such applications thoroughly. This is why we have now appointed a tree officer with effect from May 2015.

  • Variations in numbers to be felled or planted, for whatever good reasons, without either seeking a new planning consent or at least explaining the situation to the stakeholders who commented is sloppy. Ready acceptance of this as a condition fulfilment by City Planning is also sloppy.

· Leaving cut trunks and stumps lying around to alarm the general public - and delight Leicester Mercury photographers - was an own goal.

  • As we have noted before, City Council officers (particularly in Planning and Urban Design) tend to treat trees as items of street furniture not living things and therefore continually underestimate the level of public concern.

2. 20150338: 54-58 LONDON ROAD: The Decision Notice has finally been published on 25 April. We have been informed of this but not sent a copy. Presumably this has applied to all objectors including the Inspector of Historic Buildings & Areas at Historic England. City Planning did of course count the original HE letter as an objection, despite the Head of Planning then informing the Planning & DC Committee that HE hadn’t actually objected only recommended refusal. This was to scare the committee and in direct response to my claim that the HE letter would stand up well in any appeal against refusal, which I still believe. Should we now take any further action? I think not at this late date, as HE are likely to reason that any dispute between us and City Planning is no concern of them.

3.20151948: BLACK BOY PH. ALBION STREET: Following on from the debacle above a suspicious and very worrying pattern is emerging. Nothing may happen for many months. The developer will then suddenly submit an amendment that is to all sense and purpose identical to the original application and will certainly involve loss of the heritage asset. City Planning will then portray this as a radical improvement and attempt to force it through committee. Only a fraction of the current 780 objectors will object again, believing that they only needed to do it once. It is therefore up to us to prevent this by exposing this ploy in advance and urging all objectors to object again when the time comes.

4. 2015 AWARDS: Friday 15 April: An exceptionally successful evening crowned the 2015 Awards. We had 30 for the reception and 28 for the dinner and I have written to the City Rooms to thank them. I had a long conversation with Jamie Lewis who said that next year he would work towards boosting numbers in attendance, even if he had no building nominated. He said he was greatly impressed by what the Civic Society is doing and wanted to do all that he could to promote us.

5. VICTORIAN SOCIETY: The Victorian Society kindly invited me to their committee meeting on Tuesday 19 April. Both sides naturally expressed considerable concern over the clash of date for their summer coach tours. They said this was entirely their fault and it would not happen again. Meanwhile both societies are experiencing a drop in bookings by virtue of competing for the same audience. Subject to item 14 below I offered to advertise their events in Leicester Citizen providing there was a reciprocal arrangement with their newsletter and this was agreed. We have subsequently exchanged deadline dates for publication.

6. LOCAL INTEREST LIST: Between 03 and 19 April I proof read all 232 pages of the Draft Local Interest List for Conservation & Design. I commented on 60 entries spread over 11 wards and submitted 17 photographs. I recommended that they now publish ASAP. This detailed text rivals that of the statutory list and will be an invaluable tool that I will circulate to all members of the Conservation Team once it is published. However, I have also said that LIL buildings need to be identified as such on the weekly list of planning applications.

Following on from this we had a meeting with the City Mayor on Wednesday 20 April at which momentous decisions were taken over the local list. It was agreed that:

· 195 commercial and community properties be made subject to an Article 4 Direction removing permitted development rights in respect of decoration or demolition.

· 41 residential properties be made subject to an Article 4 Direction removing all permitted development rights.

· 141 entries on the list are not to be subject to Article 4. These include non-habitable structures such as railway bridges, canal locks and bandstands. Also City Council owned properties (!) and properties subject to current planning applications.

· It was suggested that designation for commercial and community properties be instant, (21 days’ notice) whereas with residential properties one year’s notice be given. This would be to minimise the risk of compensation claims.

Although Article 4 Direction doesn’t prevent loss, it prevents casual loss and is therefore a major step forward in the protection of our historic environment.

7. HERITAGE OPEN DAYS: I met Allison Colledge on Thursday 21 April and following lengthy discussion All Saints Church was recommended for this year’s HOD’s. I have subsequently agreed this with Denis Kenyon of Leicestershire War Memorials at Risk Trust: Thursday 08 Sept 2.00 - 5.00 pm, Friday 09 Sept 3.00 - 6.00 pm, Saturday 10 Sept 10.00 - 6.00 pm, and Sunday 11 Sept 2.30 - 5.00 pm. As per last year at the Wygston House I shall be constructing a roster. I also agreed that the advertised guided walk for Saturday 10 be part of HOD’s. It will have to be given free but the free publicity is so massive that I think we would be foolish not to take advantage. All information has now gone to Allison to conform with her deadlines.

8. MEMBERSHIP DRIVE: Gordon informs me that no new members have joined over the last month and that we therefore continue with a membership of just under 350. Everyone take action please.

9. 45th ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING: Wednesday 11 May, 7.30 pm at City Hall. All members please arrange to attend. Should be over by 8.45-ish and will be followed by a social get-together at the Ramada Hotel opposite.

10. CAMBRIDGE TOUR: Saturday 14 May: Unless a miracle occurs this will make a loss. (See item 5 above) However, many thanks to Herbert for his widespread publicity. Now get those leaflets out!

11. CONSERVATION OFFICER: SOUTH & EAST: Ena, Leigh and I will be meeting at Ena and Andrew’s house at 3.00 pm on Sunday 15 May for handover.

12. WESTERN PARK: Training sessions for the Saturday 18 June guided walk will be conducted with Peter, Leigh and I on Sunday 22 May and Sunday 05 June. Western Park Gates at 2.00 pm, unless a morning is preferred for either date. Leaflets are out and bookings open.

13. HERITAGE FAIR: Saturday 28 May: For those who haven’t noticed the Heritage Fair is this year advertised in the “What’s On” brochure for Spring and the DeCaux street posters for May. I have written to Sarinder Bains at City Council Marketing thanking her for this. Leaflets are widely distributed and are available tonight. Get them out. We are one or two participants down but the Victorian Society has re-joined the fold. Set up 09.30 am. Peter please bring the stand. Take down at about 3.45 pm. We need to decide who is to do this as the stand will next be needed at Heritage Open Days on Thursday 08 September.

14. MEETING DATES: Many thanks to Herbert for his efforts to sort this out. It looks as if only the second or third Tuesdays of the month are serious contenders and Regent Club say that the latter is taken. I shall attempt to sort this out with them tonight. If all else fails, we shall have to seek a new venue. Thinking caps on.

For your info:

  • NEW MARKET SQUARE: Lengthy meeting with SPS on Wednesday 20 April at which various design options for the new wall at the rear of the Corn Exchange were considered.

  • GREYFRIARS THI PROJECT BOARD: Meeting on Wednesday 27 April reviewed the excellent progress in year one. I met Tina Barton of ‘Wotbox’ and am meeting her again on Thursday 12 May to discuss use of vacant space by youth groups, pop-up exhibitions etc.

  • “LEAFY LEICESTER IN THE SPRING”: Last but by no means least, thank you to Tim for Saturday 30 April. 12 human walkers - plus one beagle. Well done!
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