Leicester Civic Society
Chairman's E-newsletter November 2017 #127

16 November 2017


1. 20151948: THE BLACK BOY: A good hearing on 24 October. The inspector was very fair and balanced, and invited my full participation. Our side consisted of Steve Brown, James Simmons, a QS (I think) and myself. Theirs: Solicitor, architect, heritage consultant and QS. Small audience - including some of our members. Leicester Mercury present.

They tried to claim poor condition of property but James was quick to point out that this had only happened during the developer's ownership and the Council had served a legal notice on them obliging them to secure their property to prevent this. When we paid the site visit it was obvious that this had not been followed and we made the point that trespass by rough sleepers could easily lead to fire with loss of life and property. (Just what they want - But I didn't dare say that!) They were rather shame faced about this and said that the building would be properly secured that night. This might not affect the appeal result but was a strong point that we made strongly. The good news is that our torches clearly showed that the fine wood panelling and ceiling plasterwork is all intact in the lounge and that previous reports of its loss are therefore incorrect. One wonders how much longer it will remaint

They tried to claim that the local community for the pub's use was no more but I denied this andthe visit demonstrated an entirely new community given the large numbers of apartment blocks now going up on Chatham Street, York Street and Dover Street.

Expect a decision by about first week in December. Fingers crossed.

2. BUILDINGS AT RISK: Historic England published this year’s ‘Buildings at Risk’ Register on 26 October. This lists Grade I, Grade II-star buildings and Grade II places of worship. A previous initiative to include all Grade II buildings at risk appears to have come to nothing, due to the scale of the problem.

The Leicester Register includes three new entries taking it to fifteen, five of which are at The Newarke and Leicester Castle, all the responsibility of Leicester City Council and amongst the most important elements of our historic built environment. Mercury coverage on 26 October. I shall be seeking a meeting with the City Council about this as a matter of urgency. The entries are:

· C18th Iron gates in the gardens of Newarke Houses. (New entry) Listed Grade II-star and Scheduled Monument.

· Medieval Newarke Wall at rear of gardens of Newarke Houses. (New entry) Listed Grade II-star and Scheduled Monument.

· John O’Gaunts Cellar, Leicester Castle. Listed Grade I and Scheduled Monument.

· Turret Gateway, Castle View. (New entry) Listed Grade I and Scheduled Monument.

· 1410 Magazine Gateway, The Newarke. Listed Grade I and Scheduled Monument. Excellent piece on this in the Mercury on 30 October.

3. LONDON ROAD IMPROVEMENTS: London Road improvements went out for public consultation for a mere one month period ending 10 November. The proposed loss of 18 mature trees on Victoria Park to accommodate an unnecessary double cycle lane has thankfully created considerable controversy and there has been an excellent piece in the Mercury on 04 November. Jennifer attended a meeting of angry locals on 06 November and can report. I feel that these proposals are so ill-conceived that they could almost be an urban designer’s afterthought.

I have been contacted by Madeleine Oldham of ‘CrowdJustice’, a crowdfunding platform built specicifically for legal cases and which is heavily involved in the legal challenges mounted to combat the distruction of street trees in Sheffield. At the moment we are only dealing with a City Council consultation, but as with St. George’s Churchyard, we have been here before. If the Council see sense all will no doubt be OK but if not the campaign will move up a notch.

4. MEMBERSHIP DRIVE: Membership as at 10 October meeting = 378: Plus 4 new members by 14 November meeting = 382: Minus 17 non-renewals as at 31 October = 365. The non-renewal rate this year is therefore 4.5%, which is the best ever. If we can recover the number of 17 lost members by the end of the year we then have ten whole months to reach the magic 400. But how do we do this?

  • Front page advert in “The Street” ( LE2 Circulation 12,000) for November has been submitted. Leaflets in Knighton Library please. (Jennifer)

  • I have submitted an article on the Society for the November/December issue of Aylestone Park News. ( LE3 Circulation 2,750) Leaflets in Aylestone Library please. (Sue & Herbert)

  • Leicester Citizen is out and is hopefully working its magic. It includes a membership by Christmas Gift Voucher for the first time in three years. There has always been a poor response to this in the past but this year it has also gone for inclusion in the City Christmas Guide. (City and County circulation 60,000?) I have topped up the leaflets in Visit Leicester, The Guildhall and OTIP.

Emma thinks that we might get someone to run Facebook for us if we offer to pay for their membership via a Facebook advert. This would therefore cost us nine pounds per year, which I think is worth it.

5. 2017 AWARDS: Open with issue of Citizen. Nominations to date:

Restoration Award: 1) Winstanley House. 2) 6 Springfield Road. (Tippetts & Brookes) Work started in June so yet uncertain it will qualify for 2017. We shall also have to arrange nominations for The Great Hall of Leicester Castle (De Montfort University Business School) and The Queens Building, Orton Square, both of which are outstanding.

New Build Award: New House at 1, The Avenue, Stoneygate. Any more please.

I am delighted to report that the Very Reverend David Monieth, The Dean of Leicester, has accepted my invitation to be our Guest of Honour on 13th April 2018.

6. WINSTANLEY HOUSE: It has taken three years to restore Braunstone Hall, the culmination of nine years of effort. The Parmars had purchased a large historic building, semi-derelict and damaged by lead theft, vandalism and arson, and needed to create a high-class hotel and restaurant. The result was opened by Sir Peter Soulsby on 10 October and I was honoured to be invited as a guest on this occasion. Braunstone Hall has been transformed as “Winstanley House”, renamed in honour of the family whose home it was for so many years.

Winstanley House has undergone a magnificent restoration and conversion, with modern extensions towards the stables and gardens incorporating a Grand Ballroom for 450, and southwards with another ballroom for 150. There are nineteen splendid boutique hotel rooms and the “Back Iron Restaurant” on the ground floor of the hall. The interior décor is fabulous and the views over mature wooded landscape breathtaking. There has been massive coverage in the Mercury, including a drawing by Olwen.The only word is wow!

7. ANCIENT LEICESTER PROJECT: This is a working title at this early stage. I have had discussions with John Cook, an illustrator who has produced some first rate images of the ancient town at various points in its history. (Roman, Saxon, Medieval and Georgian) The idea is to produce a marketable leaflet (six-fold DL or even A5?) If you are happy we will need to work further on this to look at viable print numbers and establish costs before we consider progressing further.

For your info:

· Local Plan Consultation: I have commented on the latest stage. Basically an abbreviated re-run of the 2014 Issues & Options Consultation.

· I attended the lauch of the Cathedral Economic Impact Assessment on 11 October. This was chaired by The Dean, with contributions from the City Mayor, Rev. Pete Hobson and Wolverhampton University, who conducted the surveys and assessment. It was an extremely constructive evening.

· 050 Friendship Group: Howard and I gave the ‘Romans in Leicester’ talk on 07 November.

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