Fed up with getting nowhere with its previous attempts to draw attention to the poor condition of the public realm in our High Street, the Civic Society’s Successful Streets Group (SSG) is upping the ante this year.
Old lamp-post, now ashtray!
SSG saw little point in updating its two-year-old list of 253 issues of concern such as broken paving, grubby bins, cluttered signage and street furniture only to see few - if any - improvements.
It is adopting a new, more proactive approach to working with both local councils that between them control the streetscape, and the various private companies that can help to improve matters (Ubico, BT, Virgin, etc.).
The group’s three-fold focus in 2020 will be to: highlight the categories of problem items; identify and engage constructively with the person or team in the Council or company who have responsibility for these; and follow up to see tasks carried out or, if not possible, to develop new ways to somehow get the jobs done.
NO TO THE DOUBLE ‘NO’!
SSG points out that a significant number of the issues could be sorted quickly and at minimum cost. But despite this, the councils will too often say ‘No’ to something due to lack of budget. But then they also say ‘No’ to alternative constructive suggestions. In future, SSG wants to hear “Yes, we can”!
See here for the full Successful Streets Group Report
As the scheduled talk on 4 February on roads and pavements, or Boots Corner, couldn’t be held as planned, Andrew Booton, the Chair, made a presentation focussing mainly on the current crisis in the retail sector in Cheltenham. The retail sector is struggling due to factors common to all high streets these days.
Retailers here also have the added burden of high rates and historically high rents levied by landlords. In conjunction with the borough council, the Civic Society has made efforts to speak to landlords about rents with a view to mitigating some of the effects. Progress is slow though. The matter of rates rests with Whitehall and it is hoped that some redress will be made in theforthcoming budget.
Douglas Ogle died peacefully on 3rd December 2019, aged 85. The celebration of Dougas's life to be held at Pittville Pump Room is now postponed until later this year.
Douglas has been a longstanding and active member of the Civic Society, freely giving his time and professional expertise as an architect and gallerist to further the aims of the society. Whether as a member of the Executive Committee, the Civic Awards Panel or the Planning Forum, his insightful contributions were much valued; and for many years he has brought renowned speakers to Cheltenham for the annual Paterson Memorial lecture. It is fitting that his final contribution was to ensure the Grade II listing of Cheltenham's Hepworth sculpture.
Jeremy Williamson, Managing Director Cheltenham Development Task Force, gave another spirited presentation at Parmoor House on 5 November in his annual update. This year he focussed on the specifics of the West Cheltenham Cyber Park. The nature of the cyber sector means that Cheltenham’s net outflow of younger people could well be stemmed, although the cost of housing in Cheltenham is still likely to challenge many would-be residents. Whilst the proposals are exciting and address a number of overdue issues, the success of West Cheltenham Cyber Park will be defined by its ability to integrate ‘old Cheltenham’ with ‘new Cheltenham’, especially the transport system. The town centre and retail centres around it must be updated, rejuvenated and properly integrated to ensure Cheltenham’s longer term prosperity and vitality.
Given the COVID-19 outbreak, your Trustees felt obliged, out of concern about safeguarding the health of our members, to postpone our AGM which we had organised for 18 March 2020. We have not set a new date as we do not know how long the crisis will last.
Trustee and Officer Changes
Three trustees were due to step down at the AGM and be replaced by two new appointees. By an email process the Executive Committee of Trustees have accepted the resignation, with effect from 18 March 2020, of Fiona Clarke and have thanked her for her long and much valued contribution to the Society. The other two Trustees who were due to resign at the AGM (Richard de Carteret and Andrew Chard) have agreed to remain for the present. Two new Trustees – Steve Bryson and Sarah Harvey – have been appointed with effect from 1 April 2020 and they will serve until the next AGM (whenever that is). Officers will remain as previously: -
Chair – Andrew Booton
Hon. Treasurer – Andrew Chard
Hon. Secretary – Andrew North
We should, according to our constitution, hold our AGM not later than 20 June 2020. However, it seems unlikely that this will be possible. Given this we have been in touch with the Charity Commission and explained the circumstances. The Commission’s response was as follows:
“If you feel that in the best interests of your charity and to follow the governments public health guidance it is necessary to cancel or postpone your charity’s AGM (or any other key meeting) that will be fine. You should record the decision you have made to show good governance. […] whilst it is not ideal to not follow your charities rules, these are exceptional circumstances and the Commission would support any decision made by the trustees that was necessary to follow the governments public health advice during the COVID-19 period.”
Statement of Accounts for 2019
The adjournment of the AGM has provided an opportunity to do further work to the accounts to ensure accuracy and clarity. They will be published on the website as soon as possible and will need to be explicitly approved by members whenever we hold our AGM.
Winter party banishes the blues
About forty-five members and prospective members enjoyed a delicious array of canapes, savoury and sweet, on Sunday 12 January at Parmoor House. Vice Chair Peter Sayers welcomed the guests and outlined preliminary plans for talks and visits during the year. Watch for details on the Events page of our web site. Thanks to Richard and Hilda de Carteret for arranging the party and to Pat and Aiden Rose for so ably assisting.
Charles Landry with Civic Society Chair, Andrew Booton
Charles Landry, renowned cultural urbanist and inventor of the Creative City, held the packed audience spellbound at this year's Paterson Memorial Lecture, as he expounded his philosophy on The Creative City in a Nomadic World. At dynamic pace, accompanied by an eclectic, yet perfectly synchronised slideshow, Charles whizzed us through the return of the nomads, the city in motion, the end of ownership and the impact of the digital world, and finally to creative bureaucracy. It was a tour de force of hugely important ideas for the future of our cities, including Cheltenham, and a profound message for us all to absorb and in some small part, implement.
A must read is Charles' new book The Civic City In A Nomadic World available online here.
The planned programme of Events for 2020 has been cancelled until further notice
Planning applications considered at the Planning Forum meeting on 25 February 2020 included:-
Chapel Spa, North Place: change of use to hotel
Replacing stables at Oakfield House, Greenway Lane with new house
Temporary re-painting of 4 telephone boxes outside 43 Promenade