Newsletter No. 41 June 2009

The Conservation Area


The last newsletter noted that major work in the Kent Gate yard had been completed with the restoration of 36b High St. Mark Hartley of Lotus Electrical has since been awarded a Conservation Award by the Stokesley Conservation Area Advisory Group, which advises Hambleton District Council on conservation matters. The Award is given as recognition of a development project that, in the opinion of the Group, represents the most exemplary contribution to the Conservation Area over the previous year.

The Secretary of the Group, Hugh Charman, made the presentation, and said: “I feel that the scene in this yard speaks more eloquently than any words I can conjure up about this restoration. A rundown, desolate area has been transformed, with the restoration of these buildings playing a crucial part. When running a business, it takes some courage and determination to divert time and resources to a restoration project like this. In these times when some business practices are being questioned, I feel that Mark represents the best of modern Britain’s business scene, with enterprise combined with community spirit and with taking a pride in our surroundings.

Mark has made a major contribution to this area, which, 150 years ago, was thriving with industry, noise and bustle. There were mills, a counting house (No 36a), storage (No 36b), loading facilities, also privies and a dung repository. Now it has had a re-birth and is again thriving, but is also attractive, quiet and peaceful, with due respect paid to those earlier times, with relics of a massive stone lintel and door surrounds retained (No 36b).”

We have recently installed a blue plaque with information on Kent Gate, kindly paid for by Mark Hartley. For some years the gate has been secured by an inappropriate padlock and chain, due to the keys to the lock fitted to the gate having been lost. Recently we helped to arrange for the lock to be replaced by Brain Russell , the blacksmith who restored the gate, on behalf of the owners, Cleveland Cable.

Martin’s Newsagents have done a good job in restoring their window. The restoration and development of Church House has greatly improved the appearance of College Square: we discussed these plans with Mr Devereux about ten years ago. (Outside the Conservation Area, another example of the need for patience is the new paved path around the south side of the Show Field, which we suggested ten years ago to County Highways, and they responded that they would add it to their list of work to be done when funds were available).

A street furniture survey in Feb 07 resulted in changes being made by NYCC and HDC. We have recently made a follow up survey to assess the results and check on remaining problems. There has been a welcome reduction in signs and improvement in quality. It is worth looking at the disabled parking signs, which are neatly set in bollards. However, there are still problems such as a post left with no sign, and posts protruding above the level of the sign. Both Hambleton and the County Councils have said that they will attend to these problems when they have maintenance teams in the area.

Our contribution to conservation is made mainly through the Conservation Area Advisory Group, which advises Hambleton Planning on issues and comments on planning applications in the Conservation Area. The Market Town Scheme managed by Hambleton District Council has made an important contribution to the appearance of the town over the years, providing grants for the improvement of buildings in the Conservation Area: many of the pantiled roofs, an important feature of the town, have benefited from these grants. The scheme did not operate last year, with Conservation Area Appraisals being made instead. However, it has resumed for this financial year, so we would encourage owners to take advantage of this opportunity: details can be obtained from the HDC office at Town Close or from Clare Booth at HDC on 01609 767054.

The Civic Trust and the involvement of Members

The Society is registered with the Civic Trust, which has provided a voice for civic societies at the national level, and has been a source of advice and news about the activities of other civic societies, as well as arranging conferences: we participated in a successful conference in Harrogate earlier this year. Unfortunately, the Civic Trust has recently gone into administration. As the Society is independent, this need not have major impact. Consultation has started about a new national body.

Our public meetings with talks on topics of local interest continue to be popular. The committee are concerned about the need for younger people to become involved to ensure the long term continuation work of the Society’s work. One conclusion was that we should have more talks relating to directly to Stokesley to help encourage interest. We have noted that while there are many excellent publications on aspects of the history of Stokesley, there are none that cover the story from Saxon to modern times, so we have included this topic in our Autumn programme. We are collecting the dates of buildings to help relate them to the development of the town, and would welcome information on this.

Another aim is to make greater use of the Society’s extensive collection of old photos. We are also preparing a ‘before and after’ talk with a comparison of old photos with the present day scene, which we hope will be available for a meeting next year. Recognising that we are participating in the history of the town, we aim to maintain a pictorial record of changes in the town. One of our members, Derek Whiting, has agreed to be the photographer for this work.

see newsletter no. 40