2016 Annual Report

54 years of celebrating, enhancing and safeguarding Halifax's built and natural environment.

ANNUAL REPORT 2016

REVIEW OF THE YEAR                      June Paxton-White

At the start of our year we received the good news that our nomination for one of the new Civic Voice National Design awards had been successful. These awards had been set up to replace the former national Civic Trust awards which are now being handled by a commercial organisation. Consequently, in order to distinguish the one from the other, changes had to be made to the requirements, one of which was the involvement of the local community. Fortunately our nomination, The Orangebox, a youth centre in old warehouse buildings adjacent to the Piece Hall and closely connected to Square Chapel, ticked all the boxes. We were pleased to learn that it was shortlisted in the restoration category and we were invited to send 2 people to the award ceremony at Central Hall, Westminster.  Emily Pearson the new director of the MyPlace young people's centre at the Orangebox attended, together with David Glover representing Halifax Civic Trust and they were delighted to receive an award in the form of a plaque.  This plaque was later placed on the atrium wall of the Orangebox close to the one from Halifax Civic Trust and was unveiled by the Mayor of Calderdale in the presence of a number of HCT members who enjoyed a tour of the facilities.  Four of us also attended the official opening by Prince Edward in September.

Our concern continued for the historic artefacts from the former Royal Halifax Infirmary, which has now been successfully developed into residential accommodation. Since the hospital closure they had been stored in a damp cellar at the Calderdale Royal Hospital. A committee had been set up with members from the NHS Trust and the current board of the Royal and Halifax Civic Trust, all of whom were anxious to see them placed in a more appropriate environment. A detailed inventory had been produced showing a variety of items from silverware to old photographs. The Royal had offered to return some items to their original sites where possible and to provide facilities for the others to be exhibited in a small museum which would be available for public viewing. We visited the site and having seen the proposed arrangements, the committee considered this to be a satisfactory solution. Unfortunately the portraits of benefactors, early surgeons and others had deteriorated to such an extent, without the frames that had gone missing, that the conservator who had been asked to estimate the cost of their restoration thought it could be anything up to £20,000 excluding framing. Enquiries about sources of funding were made without success to date, so the paintings will be stored in a dry condition for the time being. The two sites engaged in legal consultations about the ownership of the items and at the end of the year we were pleased to hear that a suitable conclusion had been reached and the items were shortly to be moved from one site to the other. The artefacts will be owned by the NHS Trust but be out on permanent loan to the Royal who will be able to exhibit them in their original positions or lend them out temporarily to other parties such as local museums. We look forward to being able to view them under favourable conditions as they provide an interesting insight into the early history of the hospital which owed its existence to public benefactors and subscriptions.

During the year our Chairman Dr John Hargreaves has been preparing a new edition of his authoritative history of Halifax.  The publication will coincide with the reopening of the Piece Hall after extensive restoration, a picture of which will feature on the cover.  The text will be revised and extended to reflect more recent developments in historical research and will contain new illustrations. To make this possible we acknowledge the generous support received from the Community Foundation for Calderdale and Calderdale Council Community Small Grants Scheme.  

A less savoury ongoing matter was the existence of a waste site which local people considered to be an eyesore that was visible from the railway and a nuisance to the neighbourhood. They had drawn the matter to the attention of some of our members who brought it to our committee.  Following inspections by council officers and the Environment Agency, the owner had been required to remove 8,700 tonnes of waste and had been prosecuted for failing to comply.  He had appeared in court, lost his licence and was ordered to pay a fine of £70,000.  This he failed to do and was imprisoned.    We were told that illegal activities were still taking place on the site. Various councillors, council officers and the MP for Calderdale were consulted over a long period of time. The CMBC enforcement officer considered the custodial sentence was an excellent result but unfortunately it did not solve the problem of the unsightly waste. The site continued to be operated by the son of the owner who had received a suspended sentence and changed his name and the name of the firm. The latest information to reach us was that he had appealed to the Secretary of State against the refusal by the Environment Agency to renew the licence. HCT supported this refusal. Meanwhile the owner had received a further 2 years in prison and the fine had been increased to £78,000.  Unfortunately it appears that this situation is likely to persist for the foreseeable future.

Halifax Civic Trust has taken a keen interest in the reopening of the former industrial museum located in a mill adjacent to the Piece Hall and previously operated by the council for a number of years. This is a project in which several of our members are involved as volunteers under the title CIMA (Calderdale Industrial Museum Association).  A group of us were pleased to be shown round to view the problems that had arisen with regard to the ingress of damp and supported them in their efforts to keep the valuable collection of industrial machinery at its current location. In April 2015 we heard of the difficulties that would be faced regarding the financing of the repairs. However, it now appears that a solution has been found and there is light at the end of the tunnel. We continue to hope that the museum will eventually reopen and will be enjoyed by visitors to the rejuvenated Piece Hall complex.

Under the head of Buildings at Risk, HCT has been keeping a watchful eye on several properties.  The redundant St. Mary's church at Illingworth has been up for sale. The reredos with a war memorial carved by Jackson was said to remain inside. According to enquiries made, such memorials are not the responsibility of the church commissioners but of the War Memorials Trust. We were informed that the potential bidder might wish to keep some of the internal furnishings and the church commissioners would have to approve the plans for the future use of the site before the sale went through. No planning application has appeared to date so we await the outcome with interest and hope a suitable use can be made of such a historic feature of the landscape.  

Ovenden Hall continues to be a cause for concern. This historic building was previously a care home owned by the council. It is now in private ownership and although the owner has been permitted to make alterations to the outbuildings on the site which were put on sale. It is not clear what is to happen to the main hall which continues to deteriorate.. The heritage champion, Councillor J. Smith-Moorhouse offered to consult Historic England (formerly English Heritage) for their advice and to take it up with the council's enforcement staff.  Our attention was recently drawn to Exley Old Hall which may also be at risk.

Due to the floods at Christmas we are anxious that Copley Bridge which was Grade II listed should be reinstated in an acceptable form. So far we have ascertained that it was built by the lord of the manor in 1831 but nobody has been able to trace a current owner although council officers have also tried. The council has no legal responsibility to repair or rebuild it, but they are trying to find other sources of funding and are considering its replacement by a modern flat metal walkway. Of course they are obliged to give priority to other roads and Elland Bridge in particular which are subject to much greater traffic. We hope a suitable solution can be found as, although St. Stephen's church is redundant and owned by the Churches Conservation Trust, certain people are still entitled to be buried in the graveyard, which is currently inaccessible. We would encourage any members who have concerns about historic buildings to let us know.

In connection with the floods it is worthy of note that one of the Civic Voice award winners this year was Pickering Civic Society who received special recognition of its scheme "Slowing the Flow". This involved storing water upstream using the old medieval system to prevent it flooding the town. Guess which town was not flooded last Christmas! Also on the plus side we were informed that the adviser from the Environment Agency comes from Calderdale.  We hope a similar scheme can be implemented above the Calder Valley.

In March we enjoyed a talk by Keith Noble on "The Story of Calderdale Canals" and in April Stephen Waring from HADRAG spoke to us on "The Future of Railways in the North", both of which were well attended and very interesting. In May a large number of us enjoyed a tour round the "Streets in the Sky", that is the residential area above the borough market. In the early days the owners of the shops lived above their premises. Few of us had realised that there were in fact streets above the shops surrounding the market halls. Most of the houses have been empty for many years and would require extensive modernisation and expense to make them habitable, but they represent a valuable underused resource.  

In July a group of us, duly kitted out in steelie boots, helmets and hi-viz jackets, were shown round the Piece Hall site by David Garner, the civil engineer who is in charge of the project. The restoration of this Grade I listed building dating from 1779 is radical, costing about £20 million with substantial assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund. We were fascinated by the work being undertaken.  This included the services of highly specialised master masons with experience on York Minster who have to remove badly eroded stone such as sections of pillars and replace them by freshly carved ones without disturbing the rest of the building by a single mm. It was not possible to obtain sufficient quantities of stone from the original quarry but it was sourced from a neighbouring one in order to make a perfect match. We also saw the subterranean space at the upper end of the site which is to be used for new facilities. The rest is built on rock so solid that very costly bits were broken trying to drill through it. A surprise piece of news was that the site is to be "future-proofed" in the sense that it will have ground source heat pumps and an installation in the cellar that can be linked to a district heating system which does not yet exist. This is a very welcome development. We were pleased to learn that the architects of the new library had discovered some cream coloured bricks, officially designated "buff coloured long format European style" that do not conflict with either the red brick of Square Chapel or the local stone of the Piece Hall and that Heritage England has permitted their use, not only on the library, but on the Cornerstone extension between Square Chapel and the Piece Hall which was previously to have been clad in contrasting copper.

Unfortunately no-one was available to attend the YHACS meeting in Skipton in July, but some members went to the one in Pontefract in October, the theme of which was "Design".  We enjoyed a tour round the town which has some interesting historic features.  In September, as the pinnacle event of the Halifax Heritage Festival, we hosted a lecture, attended by about 50 people, by local historian Jill Liddington, about suffragettes, entitled "Vanishing for the Vote".  In October a large group enjoyed a tour of Lindley, conducted by a member of the Edgar Wood Heritage Group. We all agreed that the work of that architect in the area was highly individual and illustrated the prosperity of Huddersfield in that period.

In December we were delighted to make the acquaintance of the new Heritage Champion, Councillor Jill Smith-Moorhouse, who has been to some of our meetings. She will be pleased to collaborate with us on relevant matters and has pursued the subject of heritage in council with considerable enthusiasm. We are pleased to support her efforts to have a full-time conservation officer engaged. In the same month members and friends enjoyed a Christmas lunch at Holdsworth House followed by an illustrated talk by David Glover on rare photos of Halifax between 1900 and 1970.

The past year has been a busy one in which we have continued to give our attention to the preservation of the rich local heritage and the future appearance of our built and natural environment. All members are entitled to attend our monthly meetings. We would particulary welcome people who have expertise in photography to join the group recording the town centre buildings and anybody who has an interest in perusing planning applications.

 

PLANNING APPLICATIONS            June Paxton-White

The system for dealing with planning applications has changed slightly. Instead of going down to the council offices at Northgate and sitting round a table to look at the actual plans and other documents the sub-committee can now access all the information on line on a much improved website. We go through the applications under consideration, listed as "Validated" and also the ones listed as "Decided" and then consult each other by phone as to any action that is required. A report is brought to the main monthly committee meeting. Generally speaking we give most attention to proposals for listed building consent and to applications in conservation areas.

The trend continues for making use of every inch of space in the form of extensions. These are now becoming more complicated. To begin with garages were turned into living space, which meant that car ports or hard standing outside had to be provided for vehicles. Detached garages were joined up to the houses and then extensions were built on the top. The fashion for conservatories, mostly to the rear is waning, as people wish to extend their premises in all possible directions, now referred to as "wrap-round". What used to be single-storey became 2-storey and may now be 3-storey, following the increase in dormer windows as householders convert their lofts into living space. It is gratifying to report that the planners, following objections from HCT many years ago, no longer permit the box-like dormers on both sides which turn the pitched roof into a flat one. There are still some terraces with these but most are being changed into the more aesthetically pleasing dormers with pitched roofs located below the ridge line. Perhaps the flat roof eventually lets in water.

Greater emphasis is being put on the need for proper drainage now that gardens have been replaced by hard-standing, which should be permeable. An increasing number of sites have to provide charging facilities for electrically powered vehicles. Some innovative architects incorporate solar panels or ground or air-sourced heat pumps, heat treatment systems and waste recovery plants and even a sedum roof. Water power has been used where technically feasible. It is a pity that renewable energy is not required of many larger developments as faster proliferation might bring down the price. We have been pleased to see these "eco-dwellings" receive planning permission and hope there will be more in future.

We have seen a large increase in fast food outlets and other eateries at the expense of the more traditional shops. This has given some cause for concern. Whole streets have lost the original shop-fronts with wooden fascias boards and pilasters. These have been encased in or replaced by characterless brashly coloured large metal sign boards and external security shutters. The planners have required the use of more discreet "conservation" shutters which can be inside the glass window in conservation areas and listed buildings. This policy has successful retained the Victorian and Edwardian character of the town centre. However, it has been lost elsewhere. There have been instances where the planners told the owners to reinstate the original fascia, probably because planning permission was applied for in retrospect after the job was completed, but they kept coming back with similar schemes and the best the planners could achieve was modifications to what had been done.

Another trend is the increase in HMOs (houses in multiple occupancy).  This means that old warehouses, premises above shops or complete old houses have been converted, not into two or three flats, but into a larger number of small bedsits with shared bathroom and kitchen, for which it is claimed that there is great demand. This has been the fate of a number of pubs which have had to close, although some still have retail premises or restaurants on the ground floor. Such a solution can prolong the life of a run-down building, which might otherwise have been demolished, and retain the visual amenity of a landmark. There have been several cases where the sensitive conversion of an old or listed building into flats or bedsits involved the removal of incongruous modern features and a welcome return to the original style.  

Old barns in need of repair and maintenance continue to be converted into dwellings. The planners ensure that the work is done appropriately, with the assistance of archaeologists as necessary. C16 beams and openings are retained and new windows or doors are in matching style. This has resulted in some fine looking houses.  Applications are still made to build houses and bungalows in the large gardens of existing houses. There is less scope for this now as almost every available space has been filled up, but we have been pleased to see some proposals refused, in particular for rows of 3-storey "town houses" which would be out of scale.  However there are instances where a pleasant house in a large garden is totally obscured by surrounding houses built very close together.

Overall, the process has been speeded up as some applications are passed using delegated powers and a greater number are told that permission is not required. We feel that, in the absence of a full-time conservation officer, the planners are doing their best to pass only what is appropriate. Problems arise when permission is applied for in retrospect as legal enforcement is long and costly. The planners continue to consult HCT over proposals that might be controversial. We make our opinions known when necessary and objections we have raised have been upheld.  There have been several occasions when members of the public have drawn our attention to matters they felt needed investigation.  It is now much easier to access planning matters on line at one's own convenience and we would welcome comments from members of HCT either on specific applications or as a regular contribution to the work of the sub-committee.  

 

C.I.M.A.                                         Dee Weaver       

This time last year we were riding high, hoping that Calderdale Industrial Museum Association would be taking over the museum from the Calderdale Museums Service within a few months. Our hopes were dashed, however, when it was learned that the repair work needed to the building, especially the north wall, was much more extensive than previously thought. For a time it looked as though retaining the museum in its present location might not be viable but, after months of discussion and numerous surveys of the building, the council's Cabinet agreed unanimously on March 7th this year to authorise the expenditure of £320,000 to make the building safe and watertight, and to push ahead with the implementation of our Licence Agreement which was signed in June 2015. This was approved unanimously at the full council meeting on 27th April 2016, with a view to handing over the keys on 25th May.  This will be five years to the day since the first public meeting at Bankfield to assess the level of interest in getting the museum reopened.  Once CIMA has the keys we will be able to access the funding so generously donated by Green Business Network, which will allow us to repair the lift and extend the second staircase, thereby making all four floors accessible to everyone. We are still at the mercy of the contractors building the new library next door, but will organise open days as soon as we can, and we definitely plan to be open for Halifax Heritage Festival weekend on Saturday and Sunday 10th and 11th September.

 

 

 

 

CHAIRMAN'S REPORT                    Dr John A. Hargreaves

It is pleasing to report a successful outcome, in collaboration with Chris Harris, a member of Halifax Civic Trust and Chairman of the Board of the former Royal Halifax Infirmary site, and the local NHS Trust, to the seemingly intractable problem of how best to ensure that a fascinating collection of portraits, artefacts and memorabilia recording the history of the free hospital movement in Calderdale might be conserved and become accessible again to members of the public for example during the annual Halifax Heritage Festival. The free hospital movement was one of the most impressive community-based fundraising achievements in Halifax's history, which has left a collection of treasures relating to the history of healthcare in Halifax which record its development from the opening of the first Halifax Dispensary in 1808 to the closure of the Royal Halifax Infirmary in 2001. The treasures, which had suffered deterioration on account of inappropriate storage since the hospital closed, are now to be moved into improved storage and display facilities on the former hospital site. However, conservation work will be required on some of the more fragile exhibits and Halifax Civic Trust would be pleased to hear from anyone who might be able to offer assistance in order to ensure that all these items are preserved to enable future generations to develop an understanding of an important aspect of their heritage.

The Halifax Civic Trust lecture has continued to occupy a key role in the Halifax Heritage Festival, which now complements the annual Heritage Open Days instituted by the now defunct national Civic Trust and now managed by the National Trust with assistance from Historic England. The lecture at Halifax Town Hall on 11 September, attended by Councillor Lisa Lambert, Mayor of Calderdale was by the distinguished suffrage historian Jill Liddington who spoke on Suffragettes in Calderdale. Halifax Civic Trust also participated in the fourth Annual J.H. Whitley lecture, at Halifax Town Hall on 4 November, organised by the University of Huddersfield, when I focused upon the extent to which J.H.Whitley's Speakership in the House of Commons was shaped by his Halifax roots. This year the Halifax Civic Trust lecture will be delivered during the Halifax Heritage Festival by the cultural historian Professor David Russell of the University of Central Lancashire, who will speak about the Halifax novelist Phyllis Bentley. His lecture will take place at the Halifax Playhouse on 11th September at 2 pm4 and will be combined with the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate Phyllis Bentley's prolific writing and her support as a founder member of the Halifax Thespians.  

Networking has continued throughout the year with several members attending various meetings of the Yorkshire and Humberside Association of Civic Societies and Civic Voice, which are open to any of our members who wish to attend. David Glover also represented Halifax Civic Trust at a Civic Voice award ceremony at Methodist Central Hall Westminster where Emily Pearson received an award on behalf of the Orange Box project nominated by Halifax Civic Trust. We are grateful to David Hanson for his organisation of a programme of more localised excursions to Lindley, focusing on Arts and Crafts features in both domestic and ecclesiastical building; Edgerton featuring suburban mansions in Huddersfield's Belgravia and Shaw Lodge Mills viewing an extensive former industrial complex and offices designed by Charles Barry now being developed into alternative uses including Artworks with strong community volunteer participation. David also arranged for the trust's annual Christmas social to take place at Holmfield house, which included a wide-ranging series of slides on Halifax buildings presented by David Glover. Another memorable visit was a hard hat guided tour of the Piece Hall to view the impressive progress being made in transforming this amazing Georgian monument for a major role in Halifax's urban regeneration in the twenty-first century. I was also invited to contribute to the Meet the Experts series of presentations focusing at Halifax Town Hall on 'Halifax Piece Hall and its environs a historical perspective'. It is appropriate therefore that we welcome Sam Mason as our Speaker this evening to bring us up-to-date on the development of this momentous project.

Halifax Civic Trust also welcomes the handing over of the keys of the Calderdale Industrial Museum, in which several members of our Executive and membership are actively involved , which  we  hope to see re-developed to celebrate and conserve Halifax's impressive collection of industrial technology exhibits within the context of the social history of Halifax and the Calder Valley. We also look forward, with the support of the Community Foundation for Calderdale, Calderdale MBC and Halifax Civic Trust to the publication of an affordable, extensively revised, third edition of my history of Halifax covering developments between 2003 and 2016, and hopefully featuring the refurbished Piece Hall on the cover to be published following the re-opening of the transformed site later this year.

Our monthly Executive Meetings, which are open to anyone who wishes to attend, have been invigorated by the regular attendance of Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council's Heritage Champion Councillor Jill Smith-Moorhouse and by regular attendance by some newer younger members who I am delighted to see are among those seeking membership of the Executive at this meeting, along with others. Among issues brought to this meeting by members of the public have been an issue relating to encroachments upon a public footpath leading from Savile Road to Love Lane, which achieved a successful outcome, to which we were able to contribute by identifying people within our membership able to recall usage of the footpath. We continue to respond to a wide range of conservation issues some arising from the regular scrutiny of planning applications led by June Paxton-White, enabling us to continue to fulfil effectively our aims to celebrate, enhance and safeguard the outstanding natural and built environment of Halifax and its environs not least in raising awareness of the continuing despoliation of the Hebble Valley through the unsatisfactory management of a waste disposal operation. Our award scheme ably administered by David Hanson has enabled us to award a plaque and commendation to two impressive developments. We remain grateful to members of the Halifax Civic Trust and members of the public for drawing to our attention a range of concerns during the year and encourage others to raise any future concerns in the year ahead.

Sadly we lost one of our longest serving and most intrepid supporters with the death of Trudy Robinson, who demonstrated a capacity to remain active despite problems of mobility. Halifax Civic Trust was strongly represented at her funeral service, which included a tribute from Chris Harris. We remain grateful to all the officers and executive committee members whose support has been invaluable in ensuring that we continue our vigilance in celebrating, enhancing and conserving Halifax's remarkable heritage, not least to June for co-ordinating the report and Gill for producing the accounts and Richard Lister for independently examining the accounts.

 

TREASURER'S REPORT                              Gill Hurl

Year ending 31 March 2016

Bank balances at 31 March 2016 are £4,038 compared with £3,716 last year. Subscriptions totalled £731 compared with £494 last year. The total funds of £23,238 include £19,000, the value of the soil Hill pots donated by the now defunct Friends of Soil Hill Pottery to Halifax Civic Trust. They are currently held at Bankfield Museum with HCT acting as trustees. Also held in trust is the bronze statue of The Boy David by Jocelyn Horner donated by the Tallis family in September 2014 in memory of their late father and husband Peter Tallis. The statue is yet to be valued but is expected to be in the low thousands. It is installed in St. Jude's church Halifax.

 

 

£
Balance Sheet
22,815.60
Total Funds at 31 March 2016
Balances at 31 March 2016:
       Current Account
1115.27
       Business Reserve Account
2,922.76
       Debtor Gift Aid
100.00
       Pottery Held In trust
19,000.00
23,138.03
           Profit for the year
322.43
Profit and Loss account 1.4.15 to 31.3.16
Total Funds at 1 April 2015
22,815
Income for the year
6,523
Expenditure for the year
-6200.79
        Total Funds at 31 March 2016
23,138.03
Income
Expenditure
Grant CffC
3,500.00
Carnegie Publications Ltd 3rd Ed.
Grant CMBC
1,350.00
“Halifax”
5,000.00
Subscriptions
731.00
HCT Awards
224.40
Bank Interest
1.47
CV/YHACS subs.
- ( 10.00)
Gift Aid
111.25
Print, stat, publicity
267.67
Events
764.50
Events
718.72
Donations
65.00
Profit for the year
322.43
6523.22
6532.22