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

Civic Day 2012

To celebrate Civic Day 2012 and its own Golden Jubilee year, Halifax Civic Trust hosted a Young Speakers'Evening in the Council Chamber at Halifax Town Hall, an event arranged by the Halifax and Huddersfield Speakers' Club.

Left to right: Olwen Edwards, Rak Verma, Ehsan Ali, the Mayor, Lloyd Moore & Dr John Hargreaves

John Hargreaves, chair of Halifax Civic Trust, opened proceedings; the chair for the evening being Rak Verma of The Speakers’ Club. The students who took part, spoke on “The Heritage and Future of Halifax.” Lloyd Moore from Hipperholme & Lightcliffe High School, and Ehsan Ali from Crossley Heath School, both spoke intelligently for five minutes on this topic. Their speeches were followed by Questions from the audience; after which, two evaluators commented positively on the students’performances. The second part of the event consisted of members of the audience giving impromptu speeches for two minutes on individual Halifax buildings, under the chairmanship of Donald Taylor. An Open Forum followed, its subject being “Ways in which we can improve our surroundings and community,” which brought further brief but valuable contributions from the audience. Afterwards, the Young Speakers were presented with Certificates by the Mayor of Calderdale, Cllr. John Hardy. The evening, which was most educational, was closed by the President of the Speakers’ Club, Olwen Edwards. The Clarifier for the evening was Andrew Gallagher, and the timekeeper was Margaret Usher.

CHAIRMAN'S REPORT to the AGM 26 April: Dr John A. Hargreaves

We are pleased to welcome Councillor Dr Nader Fekri, Mayor of Calderdale, to chair our Annual General Meeting, and we were grateful that the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress Councillor Peter Wardhaugh and Mrs Jennifer Pearson, together with the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Mr Steve Duncan were able to attend our meeting last month to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of HM the Queen. Indeed for Halifax Civic Trust this year is a year of double celebration since Halifax Civic Trust also celebrates its own golden jubilee in 2012 and in this year's report I want to reflect both on our past successes and our future vision.

I want to start by recognising some of the things that I think we do particularly well which have developed as part of our custom and practice over the last half century and which we need to hold on to as we respond to new challenges arising from legislative changes and an austere economic climate. First, I would like to focus as an example of good practice on the regular, careful scrutiny of planning applications and the identification of concerns, leading to appropriate interventions in the planning process. Often this also involves site visits and further enquiries and I want to pay tribute to the members of the executive committee who under the leadership of Ken Northcott devote time and energy to this vital dimension of our role helping to ensure that our key objectives of conserving, enhancing and safeguarding Halifax's natural and built environment are realised.

Secondly, I want to commend all those who have worked so meticulously this year under the leadership of David Hanson to process, visit and evaluate no fewer than ten nominations for this year's Halifax Civic Trust Awards. I also wish to thank Gill Hurl and June Paxton-White who have dealt with the practicalities of securing a plaque for the winning nomination and scrolls for highly commended and commended nominations as well as managing the society's finances and communications. In the twenty years since the Halifax Trust first launched its award scheme in 1992 no fewer than 63 awards have been made in total, helping to identify local models of good practice in design and construction and setting benchmarks for others to emulate. On March 19 2012 four members of Halifax Civic Trust's executive committee visited all of the ten nominated properties selecting the Boulevard Medical Centre, Savile Park Road for the 2012 Halifax Civic Trust Award, highly commending the Inspire Centre at Calderdale College, Francis Street and Moor Hall Farm, Ploughcroft Lane Boothtown and commending the provision of a toilet block extension at St Jude's Church, Free School Lane. The adjudicators were impressed with the way in which all four additions to Halifax's built environment had been distinctively designed and skilfully executed. The Georgian Savile Hall had been extended to create a modern, functional medical centre without visually overpowering the original building. At Calderdale College a modern educational structure had been transformed by intelligent design into a series of related "pavilions" along Francis Street with a strong emphasis on sustainability, both in terms of energy usage and in the flexible use of space. In Ploughcroft Lane, Boothtown a virtually derelict farmhouse and adjoining pig sties had been converted into seven attractive cottages in green belt, faithfully maintaining the vernacular style of the original house, whilst at St Jude's Church, a small complementary, carefully matched stone-built extension had been decoratively attached to the eastern side of the tower of the grade 2 listed St Jude's Church with its high profile adjoining Savile Park.

Thirdly, I want to acknowledge the commitment of members of the executive committee to networking, thereby engaging in a valuable exchange of ideas with a host of other local, regional and national organisations on which we are represented, including Marketing Halifax the Piece Hall Conservation Group, the Halifax Urban Renaissance Town Team, the Townscape Heritage Initiative and the Yorkshire and Humber Association of Civic Societies and Civic Voice. Dee Weaver, in addition to managing the Halifax Civic Trust website, has also initiated a Facebook presence for Halifax Civic Trust, whilst David Glover, as Publicity Officer, regularly brings our activities to the attention of the Halifax Antiquarian Society. We have usefully networked with other civic societies making a return visit to Skipton, hosted by Skipton Civic Trust, who visited Halifax last year. The Chairman, after visiting Nottingham with the Huddersfield Civic Society, received a recent return visit to Halifax from the President of Nottingham Civic Trust, which also celebrates its golden jubilee in 2012 and a visit to Halifax from Ripon Civic Trust is planned in August.

Within Calderdale Paul Clarke of Todmorden Civic Trust, who attended the lecture to Halifax Civic Trust on War Memorials by Dr Anne Brook, together with members of the Royal British Legion, also met with the executive committee which gave its support to a new initiative to develop networking opportunities for civic societies across Calderdale. The nationally-designated Civic Day on Saturday 25 June was marked by Halifax Civic Trust organisation of an energetic walk organised jointly with the Shibden Hall Estate ascending Beacon Hill and continuing to Shibden Hall via the newly created pathway with its stunning views of the Halifax townscape and the town's rural hinterland. We joined with the Halifax Organists' Association for an evening lecture at Halifax Minster last September, which was preceded by the presentation of prizes to the winners of the Halifax Civic Trust Town Trail competition held during the Halifax Festival to which the Halifax Civic Trust also provided a donation to help ensure its continuation.

We have become a corporate member of HADRAG recognising the importance of Halifax's communication links with the rail network. We have worked closely with DBOL, with our local M.P. and politicians across all political parties to raise awareness of the case for the retention of the Library and Archives on its convenient and popular site. This has involved frequent attendance at the Cabinet question time sessions preceding Cabinet meetings, an innovatory procedure, which has increased Cabinet accountability and made it more open to public scrutiny. Members of the Halifax Civic Trust also took the initiative in calling a meeting of the Halifax Town Team to debate the Cabinet proposal for the Library and Archive in January at which the chairman spoke together with Cabinet member Councillor Barry Collins. The chairman also spoke at the unveiling of the recently acquired portrait of John Caygill at Bankfield Museum in April 2012, welcoming its return to Halifax and its significance for the historical interpretation of Halifax Piece Hall. Halifax Civic Trust aims to be pro-active in promoting awareness of Halifax's remarkable historic environment and we are currently exploring ways of extending the blue plaque scheme in our Jubilee year with a possible new plaque to commemorate the achievements of the Halifax sculptor Jocelyn Horner who was also one of the founder executive committee members of Halifax Civic Trust.

Our effectiveness depends ultimately on the strength of our membership base and the willingness of our core membership to help us to recruit new members and encourage friends who might be interested in out activities and objectives to attend our public meetings. If you know of anyone who you think might be sympathetic to our objectives please let them know of our existence by directing them to our website or our brochure or by inviting them to our next public meeting, any of our Executive Committee meetings or our most enjoyable social occasions. We are grateful to Stuart Crowther for sharing his expertise on vernacular architecture at our Christmas social at Long Can, Fountainhead Village, last December, which included for the first time for a number of years a convivial Christmas lunch. We intend to repeat this successful format this year when there will be an opportunity to join a guided visit to another Calderdale gem the Mount Zion Centre of Methodist Heritage at Ogden with its nationally significant Hird collection of commemorative ceramics and its recently restored sundial by Andy Barraclough before enjoying a seasonal lunch at the Moorlands Inn. However, long before Christmas, may I also encourage you to support our planned visit to Middleton on Saturday 26 May when appropriately in our golden jubilee year we shall have a guided tour around the 'golden cluster' of historic buildings in the Lancashire town and a buffet lunch at the Old Boar's Head.

Having reflected on some of our successes in the past year, I want also to identify some of the challenges that face us in the future, for example the need to increase our membership base by encouraging more members of the public sympathetic to our aims to join us. Anyone is welcome to attend our executive meetings and it is pleasing to report that guests and occasional visitors regularly fill our meeting room, but there is no room for complacency and we need to encourage more people to offer to serve on the Executive and to broaden our range of experience. It would be good to see more representatives of the business community, younger people and more people drawn from the ethnic minority communities. We have been involved in discussions with the Halifax and Huddersfield Speakers' Club to jointly promote a speaking competition for young people at Halifax Town Hall, which, we hope, will take place on 25 June. Moreover, it was good to attend the presentation evening at the Central Jamia Mosque last May and also to receive support from the Mosque for the campaign to retain the Library and Archive at Northgate. We hope also to attract wider interest in our activities when we host a regional event in Halifax for YHACS with a well-known speaker in September.

We are delighted to welcome to our AGM as guest speaker Linda Riordan MP, who has demonstrated her shared concern for Civic Trust issues by joining the Parliamentary group of Civic Voice and supporting the wider campaign to retain the Library and Archive on its existing site at the heart of the community. It is interesting that at the Halifax Civic Trust's inaugural meeting in June 1962 letters of support were read from both Mr Maurice Macmillan M.P. for Halifax and Mr Douglas Houghton, M.P for Sowerby and that the proposal that the Halifax Civic Trust be formed was moved by the Mayor of Halifax, Cllr Tom Berry, who declared that 'Halifax was a civic-minded town and one to be proud of'. At Halifax Civic Trust we are dedicated to celebrating, conserving, enhancing and safeguarding Halifax's unique natural and built environment in the belief that such objectives will help to contribute to securing Calderdale's economic future by making Halifax a better place in which to live, work, shop and play.

 

REVIEW OF THE YEAR: June Paxton-White

 

APRIL 2011

Our AGM was held at Halifax Town Hall, kindly chaired and opened by the Deputy Mayor who had taken over at short notice in the absence of the Mayor of Calderdale. The Chairman: Dr John Hargreaves, Vice-Chairman: Ken Northcott, Secretary: June Paxton-White, Treasurer: Gill Hurl, Publicity Officer: David Glover, Webmaster: Dee Weaver were re-elected. The existing committee members: David Brearley, Stuart Crowther, John Gaukroger, Susan Hargreaves and Pam Northcott were reelected and David Hanson was welcomed back onto the committee. Following the business of the AGM, the Mayor presented the 2011 Halifax Civic Trust awards. It had been decided to award one plaque to the restoration and conversion into flats of the former Halifax High School/Clare Hall School on Huddersfield Road. The other four finalists were awarded a certificate by local calligrapher Helen Hayman in the categories Highly Commended: Hope Hall north wing and Brook House, Warley and Commended: Royal British Legion building and Ash Barn conservatory. This was followed by an illustrated presentation by the Revd. Canon Hilary Barber on the future plans for Halifax Minster. Questions had been raised about the former Farrar Mill site, in use as a refuse tip which was in a dangerous state and an adjacent site had been opened. CMBC was notified and looked into it. Enquiries were made in response to a request about the former Soil Hill pottery site and we learned that the appropriate archaeological survey had been carried out in advance of development. We learned that it would not be possible to open the industrial museum at the Piece Hall on Heritage Open Days. HCT was consulted about the acquisition by Hipperholme and Lightcliffe High School of the Maltings on the former Webster's brewery site and welcomed the development as we had been sorry to learn that the previous conversion into a nursery had fallen through. We decided not to object to a full planning application for the repairs to the infrastructure of the Copley Valley, that included new flood defences, roads, bridges and other works, and an outline application for mixed development. We objected to the felling of trees on the former Field House site.

 

MAY

Cllr Swift came to the committee meeting to update us on two items. The operator of the Farrar Mills waste site had been given a suspended sentence and was required to remove the dangerous surplus over a 6-9 months period. Issues of smouldering wood and dogs on the site were brought up. He will keep us informed. We were sorry to learn that the funds for the development of the Hopwood Lane triangle had been lost when Yorkshire Forward was dissolved by the government. Unfortunately legal delays involved in compulsory purchase of parts of the site had sunk the scheme, which is currently in limbo. Civic Voice had asked civic societies to invite their MPs to join an All-Parliamentary Group set up on their behalf by Laura Sandys MP. We contacted Linda Riordan who accepted with alacrity. Several members attended a private view at The Orangery, Wakefield.

 

JUNE

We heard that following the demise of the national Civic Trust, Heritage Open Days would be operated jointly by Civic Voice, the National Trust, English Heritage and the Heritage Alliance, an umbrella organisation with a powerful membership chaired by Loyd Grossman and that funding was in place until 2014. Civic Voice had considerable input into the Localism bill. We learned that the future of the industrial museum had been discussed at a meeting at Bankfield Museum that was in favour of the formation of a trust to run it and obtain funding. Stuart Crowther and Dee Weaver had toured the area photographing buildings at risk for the records of the Yorkshire and Humberside Association of Civic Societies (YHACS).

 

JULY

The walk and talk from the Minster to Shibden Hall via the Magna Via had been well attended. Reports were sent to the Halifax Courier and Civic Voice. Dee Weaver was appointed to the committee set up to secure the future of the industrial museum. The contents are to be surveyed and it may be opened on Heritage Open Days if health and safety requirements can be met. Plans for the Piece Hall showed a scheme to "boulevardise" Winding Road and open a "portal" on that side of the Piece Hall. We learned that the former national Civic Trust Awards green plaque scheme had been taken over by a company to be run as a commercial operation. Once again David Glover devised a quiz for the Halifax Festival Trail. Following our on-going objections to the alterations made to the former Heath's pub on the corner at Bull Green without planning permission, we finally learned that it was closed and under enforcement proceedings with a year to run, but we fear the proceedings might only result in a fine. Several members attended a Town Team presentation on the proposed Penning Shopping Centre on Horton Street and were favourably impressed. We were pleased to see that following our earlier suggestion the scheme incorporated travellators up the hill. Our comments were sent to the Principal Conservation Officer. DBOL was reactivated following a renewed threat to the central library, despite assurances given by councillors.

 

AUGUST

Although English Heritage had approved a fourth gate in the middle of the bottom range of the Piece Hall to match the three others, we learned that the Piece Hall developers now proposed to make a fourth gate through the industrial museum and use that building for another purpose, suggesting Shaw Lodge Mills as an alternative site for the museum. Our submission to YHACS on buildings at risk in Halifax had been commended and Dee Weaver had been asked to write an article with photos on a single building, which she had done on the Old Cock. YHACS also asked us to submit a report on the state of our local rail station. A detailed report was prepared by our member Stephen Waring who is also the chairman of HADRAG. Several members attended to opening of the Beacon Hill pathway. We participated in a consultation on the CMBC museums strategy. Enquiries were made regarding the rules on tables on pavements, as the rules on obstructions seem to have been relaxed following the need for smoking shelters. Following representations received the thickness of the stone cladding on the Broad Street development was raised with the officers concerned who stated that it was permitted by the latest building regulations. Members attended a presentation by the CMBC conservation team and participated in the consultation on the conservation strategy. An enquiry about the council policy on temporary banner advertising on buildings was taken up with the Planning Enforcement Officer who requested the removal of a large unauthorised banner on a listed building in the town centre.

 

SEPTEMBER

The talk at the Minster on Susan Sunderland was well attended. The Festival Trail Quiz prize was presented before the talk. Our chairman was invited to represent HCT at an urban ministers' conference. We learned of a proposal to set up a trust for the industrial museum similar to that for Heptonstall museum. An enquiry was received about the legal status of Heath House which had recently been sold and members offered to do historical research. A retrospective planning application had been submitted for the tower structure on the roof of former Heath's pub. It was thought it would be allowed provided a more permanent stone structure was put in place. A group of members visited Skipton where they were welcomed by members of the Skipton Civic Society who showed them round and hosted a lunch.

 

OCTOBER

Several members attended a consultation meeting on CMBC Conservation Strategy at which we learned that the authority has 2,100 listed buildings, 20 conservation areas, 32 scheduled ancient monuments and historic parks and gardens plus numerous non-designated heritage assets that English Heritage is pressing them to prioritise. A 3-year implementation plan will clearly state tasks, timescales and partners with annual monitoring and 3-year review. Various issues were raised including the condition of Scout Hall which has been reroofed with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and of the Deal Street warehouse which appears to be in limbo as it is blighted by a long-standing proposal to widen the road which would remove part of it. We were told that the HLF is keen to fund local groups in relevant activities. HCT was represented at the Civic Voice Week-End Convention in Sheffield which was hosted by the local civic society who arranged for us to be shown various projects including the difficult restoration of the notorious "concrete brutal" flats overlooking the town, now listed. The main speaker at the YHACS meeting in Beverley which was attended by several HCT members was Eric Pickles on his localism bill. The aim is to bring decision-making down to local level, by getting rid of regional strategies and targets, and to enable communities to compete for the right to run services, quoting Hebden Bridge town hall. He advised civic societies to move before local authorities in preparing plans for their neighbourhoods. He told us various funds would be available including a "community infrastructure levy". This talk produced a plethora of questions and discussions of the answers. We were introduced to a French researcher called Maxime Giboulot who was travelling round civic societies in the north of England under the auspices of YHACS to investigate the state of the high street and the activities of civic societies and were asked to entertain him. Members attended a meeting of the Town Team which featured presentations on the plans for the transformation of the Piece Hall. We were told that there would be cafes on the arcade level, mixed use of the rustic level and offices for creative industries. Services would be housed in the cellar which would be extended and the staircases would be closed off and made more welcoming. The Heritage Lottery Fund would process the application next summer and was keen to have a European style "piazza". A scheme has been prepared showing broad vistas of steps to level the surface and fountains that can be converted to an ice rink in winter like the ones outside Somerset House in London. It is expected that long-term ownership will pass to an independent historic buildings trust once the long overdue repair work and alterations have been done. A second presentation by the Square Chapel Trust on the proposed Orange Box in the buildings adjacent to the top wall of the Piece Hall told us that the work was in progress and it should be in use in a year's time.

 

NOVEMBER

Concerns had been expressed to HCT about the condition of local war memorials and the problem of vandalism, the removal of metal plaques for melting down. As a result Dr Anne Brook was invited to give a talk on "Citizen Soldiers - War Memorials" concentrating on the local area. Maxime Giboulot spent a day being shown round Halifax and filling up statistical forms. He thought that the centre of Halifax was in a healthy condition with fewer unoccupied shops and a livelier ambience than some other towns he had visited. HCT was asked to find out about the current status of the former Heath House and concerns were expressed about the future of Heath School building as we had heard that the council intended to sell it in order to fund the demolition of Northgate House and the Central Library. The DBOL campaign to retain the library on its present site was reactivated. We were disappointed to learn that the planning application for the roof garden tower on the former Heath's pub at Cow Green had been passed.

 

DECEMBER

The committee welcomed Paul Clarke of Todmorden Civic Society, who was recently elected to the Civic Voice Board of Trustees. He proposed to set up a Calderdale conservation forum to include local civic societies and other interest groups such as historical societies, CMBC conservation officers and the heritage champions. Issues to be considered would be buildings at risk, enforcement, listing, conservation areas and the forthcoming CMBC conservation strategy. The proposal was welcomed, despite the failure of similar attempts in the past. A statement from HCT about the future of the Halifax central library had been circulated to MPs and councillors and had been printed in the Halifax Courier. Linda Riordan MP had brought up the matter in parliament and drafted a letter with a set of questions to the CMBC CEO Owen Williams. Several members attended a meeting of the Stronger and Safer Communities Scrutiny Panel at which Dr John Hargreaves and others spoke. A proposal to delay the scheme until more details were available was put and a consultation period had taken place was passed and would be put to the Council. Enquiries made about the status of the Heath Grammar School building revealed that it had not been listed and that the gates were a war memorial with a Latin inscription by Enoch Powell. The War Memorials Trust is looking into it. The premises had been owned by an educational trust, the trustees now being CMBC, and the intention is to transfer it to the new library. We received an enquiry from English Heritage about our blue plaque scheme to which the coordinator David Hanson replied and suggested others that could be put up to celebrate our Golden Jubilee next year. A 400-word article that had been requested by Civic Voice on a local building at risk was prepared by Dee Weaver and later printed in full. We learned that Square Chapel Trust had received nearly £4 million to fund the Orange Box which would be a state-of-the-art youth centre. A planning application was submitted for the residential development of the former pump house at Exley. In view of its historic significance, an attempt was made to get it spot listed. The planners agreed to set a condition that the original materials be kept. A Christmas social was held at Long Can Hall where, despite ice on the car park, the members enjoyed a convivial meal and a walk and talk on the history of the building by Stuart Crowther.

 

JANUARY 2012

A new consultation document from CMBC presumed that the library would be demolished and a new one built between Square Chapel and the Piece Hall around Square Church spire and ruins, despite the results of previous consultations and the proposal put by the scrutiny panel. The questionnaire merely asked the public's opinion on the contents of a new library building. Six HCT members attended the cabinet meeting and emerged dissatisfied. The Leader of the Council stated that the site of both Northgate House and the Central Library was to be sold to a developer, but the PO sorting office and bus station were now excluded. Several members attended the YHACS AGM and meeting in Leeds, despite inclement weather. The Chairman John Hargreaves was interviewed at length for an article on Halifax in Yorkshire Life. We learned that the developer had considered the objections to the planning application for the former pump house at Exley and had decided to convert the cottage without demolition. Following concerns expressed about the felling of trees with preservation orders on them on the site of the former Field House we learned that each tree would be assessed individually, however most of them had already disappeared. The industrial museum committee on which HCT is represented was preparing a business plan and holding a training day on the machinery. A building survey carried out had found that the long neglected building needed costly maintenance. We heard that with the assistance of English Heritage a master mason had been appointed to replicate the 1668 plaque above the door of Backhold Hall so that the original could be placed inside to prevent further weathering of the inscription.

 

FEBRUARY

Another demonstration organised at short notice by DBOL outside the central library was well supported and another 1455 signatures had been collected from the public. More detailed drawings of the proposed new library had been published and were carefully studied. A number of members attended a Town Team meeting that was arranged to address the subject. John Hargreaves again spoke at length against the demolition with Cllr Collins putting the opposite point of view. The eventual outcome was that the Council postponed the implementation, or otherwise, of the project until after the council elections when another consultation would be held. We were pleased to learn from a conservation officer that although the former Heath Grammar School building is not currently listed its location within the Savile Park conservation area gives it a level of protection and the appraisal identifies it as a building that is important in the history of the area. 63 groups currently meet there and the Friends of Heath School are trying to save it. We later learned that the proposed sale had been dropped due to a legal "reinterpretation" of the trust document. In the latest instalment of the former Heath's pub saga, we learned that a retrospective planning application had been made for the tiles used on the façade despite the enforcement order issued in December 2010 and that permission for artificial slates on the new roof had been refused.

The past year has been a busy one with committee members operating at full stretch to keep all the plates spinning simultaneously. We hope we have responded adequately to all the concerns raised by members and the public. It is not always possible for our opinions to prevail but we believe that our input on all the issues brought forward has been positive and constructive.