Colchester Civic Society under Lockdown
All our events and face to face meetings have of course been cancelled for the foreseeable future, including executive committee meetings, our AGM and the monthly coffee mornings at Greyfriars. However our work continues, as far as possible, behind the scenes as you will see from the report following Jo’s message.
A message from our chair Jo Edwards
‘We are sorry that Covid-19 has forced us to cancel our entire programme for 2020, although we still hope to help with national initiatives like Heritage Open Days and the Great British September Clean-Up, if they go ahead. Those who have already paid for events or visits can receive a refund by bank transfer or by cheque. Please let our treasurer Paul Weston know ASAP which you would prefer using this email address. firstname.lastname@example.org
We will be rebooking as many of the visits as possible in the future but not until the world is a much safer place! At the moment, most venues are closed. Even our AGM has been cancelled following advice from the Charity Commissioners. We will be circulating the Annual Report and Financial Report in June, delaying our Spring Newsletter a little so that these can be included. Elections will be postponed until 2021.
Many of you have asked how the staff at Grey Friars are faring. I understand that everyone is well. The hotel’s owners are taking the opportunity to redecorate many of the rooms whilst the hotel is closed. They are looking forward to welcoming us back for our monthly Coffee Morning discussions at some time in the future.
And that brings me neatly on to the work of the Society during these troubled times. You will see that we are still busy. Executive Committee members and others are still commenting on planning matters, pursuing projects that will preserve our heritage for future generations, walking, clearing and proposing new footpaths, collecting litter, researching new blue plaques, updating our social media, looking at ways to attract new members etc etc as well as all the usual admin bits and pieces such as gathering articles for the next Newsletter, writing reports and dealing with financial and membership matters. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all
There are a lot of things that we can’t do but much that we can. We still need you to be our eyes and ears. Please tell us about things in Colchester that concern you or please you. Are there any ways that we, as a Society, can make Colchester an even better place to be? We would welcome your ideas, so please start thinking! Recently, a small sub-committee has been looking at ways to increase our membership but there is no need for us to wait for their plans to come to fruition as we can all try to recruit a friend or neighbour. Our strength is in our membership numbers, whether each individual is active or not. Wouldn’t it be great if each member recruited someone? Our numbers could double overnight!
There is another way in which you could help the Society with very little effort but to great effect. We have email addresses for many of you but by no means all and I am not convinced that some of those we do hold are up to date. Please could you let us have your email addresses so that we can update our records. It would save us so much time and money if we could email you with important information rather than write letters.
Let us hope that everything will return to some semblance of normality soon but, in the meantime, please take care and stay safe and well.
Litter Picks and most Eyes and Ears activity has been brought to halt and the Great British Spring Clean has been postponed to 11-27 September 2020 (now renamed the Great British September Clean). At the time of postponement 22 litter-picking events around the borough were registered on the GBSC website and an additional 24 events were being planned. CBC neighbourhood team wardens are preparing a list of ‘no man’s land’ sites and other litter hot-spots in the borough for extra attention during the GB September Clean-up.
Also affected by the lockdown is the repainting of the cast iron lampposts in Roman and Castle Road. This was on the verge of starting in April, with four teams of two set up to take on four lampposts each, using equipment paid for from ward councillor’s locality budgets and paint supplied by Essex Highways.
Work is continuing however on other fronts.
Our footpaths team are exploring the possibility of getting a public right of way approved along the Colne riverside between the stile beside the subway under Westway and Sheepen Bridge. If anyone knows people who regularly walked this route between 1995 and 2015 (when a fence was erected that now obstructs the route), please get in touch ( email@example.com )
We are also exploring again the possibilities for opening up the path to nowhere on the north bank of the Colne between Meander Mews and Rouse Way (more on this later).
Our planning team is continuing with its work. Below is a brief report on the status of applications where the Society has made a comment or objected:
The Old Odeon.
The latest application for the old Odeon site in Crouch Street has been submitted by the developer ,Blue Lagoon .
This is No. 200910 and for those with an interest in this site it is well worth having a look at.
In particular do read the Viability study which presents an independent view of the financial implications of the possible various options for the developer.
Also the Heritage Impact Assessment which describes the history and structure of the building in a evaluation context.
Lastly,the Planning statement which draws these together and presents this latest last option for the developer to continue with .
This is to knock down the whole thing ,build a pastiche replacement frontage ,behind which is the block of flats with underground parking in the basement, six floors in total above.
Do bear in mind that the developer already has planning permission to make this into a flat development. The financial side would never stack up as this illustrates.
So what does the Civic Society think ?
The Little Glebe, Spring Lane application has been with drawn .
The Essex County Hospital site is awaiting changes in legislation to allow a digital participation for a public meeting in the current crisis.
5 Military Road (the micro flats). This has been refused again. We are broadly in favour of this proposal, because it offers the possibility providing affordable housing for single people.
The house application in Carlisle Close has been withdrawn.
The multiple occupancy house in North Station Road has been granted an extension of time.
A house alteration in West Stockwell Street has been withdrawn
A house extension in Northgate Street has been resubmitted with changes.
The Culver Square living wall application has been approved, sadly. The conditions are May to Sept only, two years only and any gaps must be refilled immediately.
We have also made comment on the Grammar School railings and the Christchurch extension/parking issue in a less formal way through dialogue with the architect and hopefully the local objectors.
We are continuing to apply for funding for the Jesse Jones grave restoration at St Botolph’s graveyard. The Interpretation Board is moving ever nearer to being manufactured now the wording has been agreed. Hopefully we may soon get some positive responses to the several applications in these difficult times for fund raising. (Please note St. Botolph’s Priory has now been closed until the ‘Lockdown’ is over)
As you will see, if you explore further on our website, an extensive update has been carried out on many pages, with more to follow.
Civic Society membership was due for renewal on 1st February. Please renew at the new rates of £11 and £16 for a couple, if you haven’t already done so. Our work relies on maintaining adequate funding.
As Jo has already stated, our strength is in our membership numbers, whether each individual is active or not. So please join us if you haven’t already done so. And if you have then please try to recruit your friends and neighbours.
Wouldn’t it be great if each member recruited someone? Our numbers could double overnight!