Along with many other civic societies across the country, Wakefield Civic Society has submitted a response to the Government’s White Paper consultation Planning for the Future.
The White Paper sets out to streamline and simplify the planning system in an attempt to help solve the housing shortage by offering greater certainty of outcome to developers. However, we think the premise that it is the planning system itself that causes that shortage is wrong; reasons for the housing shortage are much more complex and rooted in structural economic issues.
In summary, while there are some positive aspects contained within the proposals, many of the proposals lack detail and look as if they have not been thought through with any vigour. They leave too many questions unanswered and fundamentally shift the locus for discussion on planning matters away from the individual to the generic. In so doing, they introduce a democratic deficit by denying members of the public the right to comment on planning applications at the time they are lodged, assuming that the public will be content with being given a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to comment on zoning schemes and design code content.
Planning is a complex matter. Streamlining and simplifying the process must not be at the expense or producing poorer outcomes in either quality or aesthetics. Local people have local knowledge and they should be encouraged to participate in the planning process at all stages. It is unreasonable to suggest that it is local engagement that is to blame for problems with the current system. Buildings are designed to last a long time (or at least, they should be). What, ultimately, is wrong then with devoting a little more time to get the very best possible outcomes in place-making when the resulting product could be around for 40 to 50 years and possibly much longer? The planning process should be seen against the longer-term scale of how long the building/infrastructure/etc is design to last for.
We feel that, as drafted, we cannot support the proposals.
You can read the full response we have submitted here.
Delayed because of Covid, Wakefield Civic Society announces annual Restaurant of the Year Award and Design and Environmental Awards
Wakefield Civic Society has announced its annual awards – some six months later than usual because of Covid-19.
Usually announced at the Society’s Annual General Meeting in April, this year’s results were held over until the autumn in the hope that the usual awards presentation could have been made, albeit late.
As the current restrictions on public gatherings continue to prevent the Society holding its regular events, the results are to be announced on-line at 7.30pm on Wednesday, 23rd September.
Restaurant of the Year Award
The Society introduced a Dining Club for members in 2010. Each month, and usually on the first Thursday evening, Dining Club members try a different establishment in and around the city. At the end of the evening, members score their overall experience and, at the end of the year, the restaurant receiving the highest score is presented with the Society’s Restaurant of the Year Award.
The Dining Club is organised by Wakefield Civic Society committee member Sandra Elliott.
In 2019, the Society’s Dining Club met on 12 occasions. When the marks were counted, the restaurant with the highest mark was Corarima, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant serving Abyssinian food. The restaurant opened in 2018 and the Society’s visit (in January 2019) was the first visit the Dining Club had made to the establishment.
Run by husband and wife team Asamnew Asres and Rahel Bein together with their friend Bizunesh Kebede, Corarima offers customers a warm welcome.
Organiser Sandra Elliott said “So many of our members wanted to take part in the visit to Corarima that we had exclusive use of the restaurant for the evening. It’s always good to try somewhere new and we had heard good reports even though the restaurant had only recently opened at the time of our visit. From the moment we walked in the door, our members were made to feel at home. The food was really good quality, lovingly prepared with lots of fresh ingredients. No wonder our members rated their visit so highly”.
Wakefield Civic Society President, Kevin Trickett MBE, said “The Society’s Dining Club has been a runaway success for the Society and has been going now for over 10 years. One thing that is really noticeable across the city is just how many new restaurants have opened in recent times – and that the public seem to be very supportive. It is particularly nice that our Restaurant of the Year Award should go to one of these newer businesses and I wish to congratulate Asamnew, Rahel and Bizunesh on their award.
“Of course, I recognise that these are really difficult times for the restaurant trade – the Society’s Dining Club hasn’t been able to meet since March – but we have to try to be optimistic and hope that the trade can survive the current problems and come back strongly at some point in the not-too-distant future”.
Design Awards 2020
Wakefield Civic Society has announced its annual Design Awards.
Each year, the Society invites nominations from the public, from developers and from the Society’s own members for projects competed during the previous year. A panel of judges them meets to decide which projects should be commended and which ones should win awards.
In the 2020 awards round, judges considered projects completed in 2019. Although the number of nominations was on the low side, some very interesting projects were put forward.
The judges, made up of members of the Society with planning, design and arts backgrounds, agreed that the following projects deserved recognition:
Reel Cinema, The Ridings – Commendation
The judges like the way some empty shop units within the shopping centre had been successfully converted to a 5-screen cinema which offered customers comfortable seating in a modern environment. With the larger screening auditoriums seating just 58 people, the cinema also offered a very intimate setting.
Co-incidentally, the Society had hired one of the screens for a private viewing of the Downton Abbey film during 2019 and had really enjoyed the experience.
The judges decided to make a commendation for the project.
Work was undertaken by Swindon Interiors.
All Saint’s Yard, Almshouse Lane – Commendation
The judging panel welcomed this project to improve a delivery area at the back of the Ridings Shopping Centre off Almshouse Lane. A place perhaps little visited by members of the public before, the project brought a splash of colour via murals painted onto the backs of the buildings facing into the yard. Planters and tables can be moved out into the yard to create a community space for outdoor events.
The project was Commissioned by The Art House as part of an on-going partnership with The Ridings shopping centre and its parent company, New River Retail. The murals were painted by artists Ellie Way and Ben Craven.
The judges again decided that a commendation was appropriate.
Union Bank, 57-59 Westgate – Commendation
Now under new ownership and management by Craft Union Pubs, this former bank building erected in 1877-78, long since used as a night club, has been given a fresh look with a complete makeover and a new name, Union Bank. The judges liked the discreet signage on the exterior of the building which was very much in keeping with the status of the Upper Westgate Conservation Area, recently designated a Heritage Action Zone. in which the property stands. They were also pleased to see the memorial clock at the top of the building had been set working again – it is thought it had been stopped for over 20 years. The judges gave a commendation.
The Weston, Yorkshire Sculpture Park – Award
The new visitor centre at Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a £3.5 million project which opened to the public in March 2019. It includes a restaurant, shop, gallery and additional visitor facilities.
Built on a historic quarry site within the 18th-century Bretton Estate, The Weston sits snuggly into the landscape in a bold modern design. The building was designed by architects Feilden Fowles and constructed by Yorkshire-based company William Birch.
The judges were most impressed with the aesthetics and had no hesitation if offering an award.
The Boiler House, Clayton Hospital – Award
The old boiler house to the hospital, which sits apart from the hospital building on a plot of land behind Wentworth Terrace, the property fell into disuse once the hospital closed. It was acquired by developer Nigel Coxan who has converted it into a private home for his own use. The architect was Darren Bailey of Horbury firm Architecture 1b.
Again, the judges were impressed by how the design incorporated modern elements into an older property and how certain features, such as the boiler house chimney, had been retained, thereby creating an innovative solution to the conversion of a disused building.
The judges agreed an award should be given.
The Beaumont Building – Special Award
The former registry of deeds building on the corner of Margaret Street and Newstead Road fell empty when the West Yorkshire Archive Service moved to new purpose-built premises in Lower Kirkgate, leaving an empty building behind with some structural problems.
Wakefield College acquired the building and undertook a programme of restoration and conversion work to turn the 1930s property into a modern and accessible education facility. The building is now home to Gaskell’s Restaurant, the catering college for students that was formerly located further up Margaret Street.
The judges were impressed by the quality of the conversion work and the way in which the building had been made accessible, particularly to people with mobility needs by creating a new lower ground floor ramped entrance which involved landscaping works to lower the level of the land alongside the new building, now name the Beaumont Building after Wakefield suffragist Florence Beaumont.
The judges decided to make a Special Award to recognise the scope of the project and the quality of the work undertaken.
New for 2020, the Society has introduced two new categories of Environment Awards.
Inspired by the fact that Wakefield is now recognised as being home to the world’s first-ever nature reserve, created at Walton Hall in the early 19th century by Charles Waterton, and an increasingly urgent need to tackle climate change, the Society decided that two new categories of Environment Award should be introduced.
The first category would focus specifically on projects which demonstrate innovation, imagination and good practice in the efficient use of resources and that support the wider goals of sustainable development. Unfortunately, no nominations were received in this category.
The Society had more success in attracting nominations in the second category where we were looking for projects that demonstrate innovation, imagination and good practice in nature conservation, the promotion of environmental quality and support of the wider goals of sustainable development.
In total, three nominations were received and the judges were impressed by all three so decided to make three awards. These when to:
A Greener Trinity Walk
This project is notable for the involvement of a sizeable workforce in a wide variety of carbon reduction, waste management and pollution reduction measures, including a travel plan for both staff and visitors.
The project has already received recognition through the Green World award (http://www.greenworldawards.com/ ). In 2019, following endorsement at the UK level as part of the Green Apple award process, ‘Green World’ gave the Trinity Centre a ‘global gold award’ for its efforts in the field of green property management.
Here is a list of some of the project’s major achievements:
i) Achieved zero waste to landfill Increased onsite waste separation by more than 5% annually
ii) Reduced waste going to Material Recovery Facility by at least 10% annually
iii) Reduced annual expenditure on waste management by 2%
iv) Reduced electricity consumption by 10% almost yearly
v) Improved staff/tenant environmental awareness and actions
vi) Replaced cleaning chemicals with Aqueos Ozone
vii)Reduce cleaning chemical expenditure
viii) Site staff trained in pollution incident responses
vix) Raising environmental awareness in community through school trips.
Ridings Rooftop Mini Allotment Project (and Edible Gardening Club)
This is a joint project is a joint initiative between The Ridings Shopping Centre and Incredible Edible, an urban gardening group. Along with the Trinity Walk project already mentioned, this project helps to show a different side to city-centre retailing. They both show how existing retailing centres and complexes can actively engage in policies and practices with environmental benefits.
The Ridings Rooftop Mini Allotment scores highly as a deceptively simple and imaginative greening concept and also in its potential social impact.
The allotment was created in 2019 on a neglected part of the rooftop car park at the Ridings Shopping Centre. Influenced by current ideas about “greening the city” and making better, more environmentally friendly use of urban space, has built and let fourteen container-based “allotment” plots to members of the public who live locally and have found it difficult to access suitable growing space of their own. Roughly fifty people have benefited directly (by renting a plot or by joining in the weekly edible gardening club) but the project has influenced a far larger number of people. The project has inspired others to start/develop other community projects.
Community Tree Planting Project, Standbridge Community Centre, Kettlethorpe
The Standbridge Tree Planning Project is a local project with local benefits and is important and worthwhile for that reason.
Arising out of the Friendship Group which meets at the centre, the project set out to improve the old school grounds where the centre now sits, making it better for people and wildlife. The fields were surrounded by a stark metal fence; the appearance of this has been improved by adding a broad line of trees there and a shelter belt behind the centre.
Native trees have been used to provide blossom and berries which support pollinating insects and birds. They also capture carbon, bringing long term environmental benefit while reducing water run-off to neighbouring properties.
The project ran over three days and involved were Hendal Lane Junior School, Kettlethorpe High School, Street Scene, Engie, and local residents.
They all had a talk in school assembly about the benefits that the trees would bring a week before the planting.
One benefit now known to help children is the improvement in health and wellbeing by taking part in tree planting and helping to reduce some of the worry about the long-term effects of climate change.
Students and those who have special educational needs learnt about all the benefits the trees would bring to the locality.
Speaking about the Design and Environmental Awards, Kevin Trickett MBE, president of the Society said “Although the quantity of nominations was lower than usual, there was no drop in the quality of projects recognised by these awards and everyone involved with the ones recognised by these awards and commendations should be applauded. Individually and collectively, these initiatives help to make Wakefield a more attractive place in which to live and work. We hope that these successes will inspire others in the future”.
You can see the announcement of the awards in this film here.
Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, bringing together over 2,000 organisations, 5,500 events and 46,000 volunteers every year.
Places across the country throw open their doors to celebrate their heritage, community and history. There are guided walks, talks and a host of other activities that give people a chance to see and explore hidden places and try out new experiences – and everything is offered free of charge.
This year, Heritage Open Days runs from 11th to 20th September but, because of the Covid epidemic, it won’t be possible to make all the usual arrangements for tours and property openings. While some face-to-face events will happen while respecting government guidelines on social distancing, 2020’s Heritage Open Days programme will also see a move to offering more events on-line. One of the things we are keen to explore is this year’s national Heritage Open Days theme of ‘Hidden Nature’.
Communities are being asked to celebrate the stories of the places and spaces that are important to them in new and innovative ways. Visitors will be able to participate in activities much further afield to explore even more hidden places and local gems from the comfort and security of their armchair.
Here at Wakefield Civic Society we are committed to running a programme of events and activities that will be screened on-line. Some of these events will be delivered as webinars but we have also created a Vimeo Showcase where we are proposing to host short films exploring Wakefield’s rich architectural and cultural heritage.
Much of the content we post in the Vimeo Showcase will be created by the Society itself but we’d like to extend an invitation to other organisations, filmmakers and creatives who would like to post short films of original work (ideally around 5-10 minutes in length) that explore Wakefield’s built and natural environment. Full credit will, of course, be given to anyone whose work we feature and you will retain full copyright control of your material outside the Heritage Open Days period.
Wakefield Council recently announced a proposal to close Northgate to traffic from the Bull Ring to the junction with Providence Street and Cross Street for a period of six months. On-road parking spaces along Northgate from Cross Street to Rishworth Street will also be suspended during this period.
This is an experimental closure intended to help with the re-opening of the city centre and to allow restaurants and cafés in the vicinity to serve food to their customers at tables set up outside. The Council will take comments during the trial and consider making changes as considered necessary.
The Society’s view on the proposal
In broad terms, the Society supports the Council’s proposal.
Kevin Trickett, president of the Society said:
“The Society has been calling for increased pedestrianisation of the city centre, particularly around the Bull Ring area, for some time so the current proposal is a step in that direction.
“Many of the vehicles travelling via the Bull Ring are just passing through – they bring nothing to the city centre except congestion and pollution and much of the through traffic could find other routes around the city – for example via Marsh Way, Mulberry Way and Drury Lane.
“We appreciate that the Northgate proposal is a temporary measure, introduced as a direct response to help open up the city centre as lockdown eases, and it is far from a perfect arrangement, but we understand that there was an opportunity here for the Council to secure funding from central government and it had to move quickly to do so.
“In theory, this proposal should allow those cafés and restaurants along Northgate that wish to do so to serve customers outdoors; it just wouldn’t be possible to do that without reducing traffic flow and removing some of the parking spaces as the pavements aren’t wide enough to allow it, particularly when there is an ongoing requirement to maintain social distancing.
“Inevitably, this will take some getting used to and we can understand that some businesses might have concerns. Indeed, the Council may need to modify the proposals over time once they see how they work in practice, but it will serve as a useful experiment to test whether people prefer more space being given over to pedestrians.
“Many towns and cities are making similar arrangements right now, both on a temporary basis as here in Wakefield and also as part of more permanent solutions to reduce traffic and to improve the quality of the environment and public realm. We hope that, in due course, the Wakefield Council will go further.
“Unlike some larger cities, Wakefield has a relatively compact city centre which should lend itself well to further pedestrianised areas but we need a complete package with traffic calming measures, changes to bus routes, provision for delivery and emergency vehicles and disabled access being included in the overall design.
“Some people may recall that traffic used to be allowed to travel in both directions along upper Kirkgate until the area was first pedestrianised in the mid-1970s. I recall some people expressing misgivings about that scheme when it was first mooted but I doubt anyone would want to see traffic being allowed back into the ‘Cathedral precinct’ which is one of the most attractive parts of the city centre today complete with landscaping and mature trees where once there used to be cars”.
Speaking about the news that the government was to allow some businesses to re-open following an easement to the lockdown measures, Wakefield Civic Society President Kevin Trickett MBE said:
“Wakefield Civic Society welcomes the gradual easing of the lockdown conditions. We need to see Wakefield opening for business once again – but it must be done in such a way that ensures people can go about that business in a way that is safe and low risk. Yes, it will be good for people to be able to get out and about again, but we must not jeopardise people’s health and safety, otherwise the last two months will have been for nothing. Too many people have suffered, and died, because of this awful virus. Let’s not forget that as we slowly start to ease back into something approaching normal.
“Of course, opening shops is only part of the story. Many of the businesses in the catering and hospitality trade, such as hotels, bars and restaurants, will remain closed for now; similarly our cultural venues such as galleries, cinemas and theatres are some way off returning to ‘business as usual’. We have great sympathy for those businesses that can for now only look at the calendar and wonder when they too will be able to resume operation, but we have to adopt a safety-first approach and we urge the government to continue offering financial support wherever it is needed. These businesses and cultural organisations have helped to make our town and city centres great places in which to relax and to enjoy life with our families and friends. In the fulness of time, we need them to bounce back, to resume where they left off, and to bring back joyfulness and richness to our lives.
“Until that time comes, we congratulate those business and cultural organisations that have found innovative ways to keep going in one way or another, whether it be offering goods and services on-line, delivery and takeaway services, or providing entertainment through their websites and social media outlets.”