Leicester Civic Society
Chairman's E-newsletter December 2017 #128

12 December 2017


1. THE BLACK BOY and THE SHIP: I am delighted to announce that the Black Boy planning appeal has been dismissed. No details just yet as I still await the official letter. However I have told the Mercury that the developer can now implement their original consent, which at least retains the façade, or better still we can continue to work towards the rescue and reuse of the building, which started when the City Council refused consent twelve months ago. This is perfect timing as I have been invited to write an article for the Institute of Historic Builkdings Conservation Journal on civic society participation in new Local Lists. Leicester is apparently seen as an outstanding example. I shall use this excellent decision to argue that civic societies should be working with local planning authorities to defend the entries on these lists.

Historic England have just published on the importance of Inter-War and Art Deco pubs, which brings us straight onto the subject of The Ship. This is also on the Local List but is owned by the Council, who by giving outline consent for their Waterside Regeneration Project, are already countenancing its destruction. We must highlight this potential double standard. They fight to save one Inter-War pub on the Local List, whilst proposing to destroy another in their ownership.

2. ST. GEORGE’S CHURCHYARD: The application has still not come to Planning Committee and there is only the 20 December meeting left before the end of the year. Could be good news – but could be bad?

3. HERITAGE AT RISK: I have now written to The City Mayor and the Conservation & Design Team at City Planning. I have highlighted the plight of buildings and structures owned by the City Council that are Grade I or Grade II-star listed, a part of Scheuled Ancient Monuments and which appear on both the Historic England and City Council at risk registers. There are no less than seven of these, which have suffered from serious neglect by the Council in the past:

· C18th Iron gates in the gardens of Newarke Houses.

· Medieval Newarke Wall at rear of gardens of Newarke Houses.

· John O’Gaunts Cellar, Leicester Castle.

· Turret Gateway, Castle View.

· Magazine Gateway, The Newarke.

· Ruins of Leicester Abbey and Cavendish House, Abbey Park.

· Abbot Penny’s Wall, Leicester Abbey.

The only response so far has been from C&D who inform me that the Council is about to start work on repairs to the section of Abbot Penny’s Wall facing the river, which is suffering severe damage from self-seeded trees. Seventeen new trees are to be planted as part of this work.

4. HERITAGE PARTNERSHIP: Monday 13 November at the Engineering Building, Leicester University. Presentations were made on:

4.1. “Kick the Dust”: HLF funded project by the YMCA. The idea is to engage ‘disengaged’ young people in heritage. We have already done this sort of thing with Focus but YMCA young volunteers could possibly bring greater depth to our existing projects. However, there is apparently little evidence that disengaged youth will suddenly engage with heritage organisations.

4.2. “Stephenson Lift Bridge”: Restoration project by Leicestershire Industrial History Society who reported on progress to date. They are now at the reconstruction stage but need volunteers (apprentiships schemes?) with professional guidance. But there is a problem with deciding a final location. Leicester - Yes. GCR New Railway Museum - Possible. Abbey Pumping Station - No. Also, a location needs to be established before many would volunteer for the work.

4.3. “Friends of Belgrave Cemetery”: First rate presentation of their work made by The Friends, about which I was unaware. They have 200 members and are just our sort of organisation. I shall join. We could donate some bulbs for their planting scheme? Also, an open day visit for our members with a guided tour? I shall follow this up.

4.4. “University Engineering Building”. Very impressive.

4.5. I reported on the success of Heritage Open Days in September and also the Jewry Wall Museum “pop-up” at Highcross Centre during the October half term. Sue Barton announced that the Western Ward Community Enterprise Project for Western Park is to be launched on 26 January. I have put this in my diary. I volunteered to give a presentation on Heritage at Risk at the next meeting, which will on Monday 29 January 2018. Winstanley House. (To be confirmed)

5. MEMBERSHIP DRIVE: An extremely poor response to the advert in “The Street”. However it has been spotted by “The Friends of Clarendon Park”, who have invited me to speak about our work on a conservation area for Clarendon Park at their January meeting. Could be good. I have submitted an article on the Society for the November/December issue of Aylestone Park Newsletter. (LE3 Circulation 2,750) This is due out about now. As feared, our membership voucher was not included in the Ultimate Christmas Guide. If they invite participation next year I shall tell them off. I grow increasingly desparate for some good news on this front.

We will need a new supply of membership leaflets by about March and I am working on the idea of pop-up banners for the Heritage Fair.

Emma quite correctly points out that it was not her idea for us to pay the membership of anyone volunteering to run Facebook. She believes they should pay like the rest of us. Naturally I agree and I wouldn’t suggest making this a selling point for the job but desparate times would seem to call for desparate measures.

6. 2017 AWARDS: Open with issue of Citizen last month. But no further nominations since our last meeting so it is time to get proactive. I am proposing Saturday 10 February for the adjudication visits. The sensible maximum number of visits for one day is five and we have three outstandingly good possibilities for the Restoration Award: Winstanley House. (Nomination received) Leicester Castle Great Hall and the University Engineering Building. This leaves two to create a contest for New Build. We have a nomination received for No.1 The Avenue, Stoneygate. What about the Lumis Building, Southgates? Time is pressing and we need to decide tonight. I need to write to nominations before our next meeting in January.

7. GUIDED WALK PROGRAMME: “Medieval Streets at Christmas” on 30 December sold out on 28 November and there is now a waiting list. This is five out of the last six walks that have been sell-outs. With Colin Crosby’s retirement the competition appears to have all but evaporated. The 2018 programme is shaping up:

Cynthia Brown wants to do her new walk “Radical Leicester” for us, and Jim McCallum has devised a new walk on “Non-Conformist Leicester” that will take in The Great Meeting, Charles Street Baptist, Bishop Street Methodist and the Pork Pie Chapel. This leaves Peter and Leigh to give “Old London Road” and one other, and then two for me - I’m thinking of “Seven Great Banks”, a new one for the Sunday afternoon of HOD’s in September, and “Around the Walls of Leicester” next Christmas.

8. MID-WINTER MEET UP: Friday 02 February at The Globe, Silver Street. Only six bookings to date. Worrying - but no doubt things will pick up after Christmas.

9. ANCIENT LEICESTER PROJECT: I have given John Cook every encouragement and contacted Wilford’s our leaflet printers with various printing questions. They are keen on this, but point out as I suspected that artwork would be the major expense. This is of course good news as we would submit prepared from John. Gordon and I have identified four potential commercial outlets. Unless anyone wants to pick this up and run with it, work will halt now as I need to concentrate on the March Citizen and the 2018 Awards.

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