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Hebden Bridge Town Hall

From C Forster

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Surprised there has been no comment on the town hall plans.

I think the community ownership of the town hall is a great thing but I really don’t find the new proposed extension on keeping with the area.

It also looks like the development will remove parking spaces.

Considering the strong feeling on previous developments I’m surprised to see so little comment.

From Jan Scott Nelson

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

There have certinly been well-publicised public consultations on a number of occasions, so maybe people feel like they’ve had their say already.

From Jim S

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

I attended one of the earlier consultations and I am really pleased that the partnership have chosen this particular plan. I think it would be both a fantastic improvement both in aesthetics and in the facilities it will offer. There is a slight reduction in car parking spaces but I seem to remember this was to be offset with a new parking provision in the Victoria Road area. And really car parking spaces should be way down the list of priorities for a development that is looking to the future, especially in a town that is well served by public transport.

From Cllr Susan Press

Sunday, 5 September 2010

I would urge all who opposed the Garden Street development to take a look at the plans for the new Town Hall which represent gross over-development and will ruin the town centre. Together with Coun Dave Young, I opposed them at last council meeting. We lost the vote - but Calderdale still has to decide.

From Gwen Goddard

Monday, 6 September 2010

What is Susan on about?

The development proposals for what were the delapidated council offices are splendid.

Those responsible have worked hard with a first class group of architects to produce plans and, crucially, ideas which if brought to fruition will regenerate that part of our town, help the local economy and restore civic pride.

Yes, the development will change the impact of that corner of Hebden Bridge, but if the building had been left in the hands of Calderdale it would probably have been sold off. I doubt Susan would have liked that.

From Cllr Susan Press

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

What am I on about?

Some years ago the Town Council decided it would take the Town Hall back into the ownership of the Town Council to stop Calderdale selling it off. Together with fellow Labour councillors, I vigorously supported that idea. Unfortunately, it became clear this would not be viable under Tory leadership of Council.

I therefore supported the Friends of Hebden Town Hall and signed up to their campaign to restore the building for community use. What I did not sign up to was a development which is totally out of keeping with the architectural style of the building, is over-intensification, an extension which is far too large and which will dwarf the existing (listed) building.
At a time when we are in the throes of a recseesion, the notion that commercial interest is paramount over the interests of the community is wrong-headed.

The scheme is a carbuncle. It is far more intrusive than the Garden Street development would have been. It also demolishes part of the Town Hall.
I can only say I am not alone on the Town Council in this view and that unfortunately on the night of the vote several councillors who would have voted against could not make it. The scheme was also only carried by one vote. Hardly a ringing endorsement

From Cllr Catherine Groves

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

I do not see what more the Community Association could have done in terms of public consultation before submitting the plans for the Town Hall. I am proud to say I voted for the acceptenace of the plans as I think it is an innovative design which the town will be proud of. It is partly because of this design that we have been shortlisted (1 out of 3) for the Academy of Urbanism 'Town of the Year' award to be announced later this year. I welcome discussion of this topic and am pleased with the responses shown so far. Everything was new - and innovative - when it was first built. We must not be afraid of this.

From Cllr Susan Press

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

I think that argument was put back in the 1960's when there were plans for high-rise flats and the destruction of what are now listed buildings on Bridge Lanes. Thankfully it never happened along with the motorway once scheduled to cut a swathe through the Calder Valley.

There is nothing to be proud of in voting for a scheme which will ruin the character of Hebden Bridge town centre. I'm not interested in architectual awards. I am interested in the interests of the local community.

I don't think they are served by a scheme which completely dwarfs surrounding buildings and which, frankly, is unnecessary.

By all means restore the Town Hall and make it available to the community. But this scheme was not on the agenda when we originally agreed to back the Friends of Hebden Town Hall.

And while I am on the topic I am also opposed to the rates being charged for room hire. It is our building - not a business park - which is what it will become if this scheme goes ahead

From Greg Hobson

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

I wholeheartedly agree with Susan Press. The development is totally inappropriate and without redeeming features Archictecturally, it is a lazy, flat-pack design that is bland and without merit. Furthermore, it dominates the surroundings, becoming the pre-eminent feature, rather than blending in, or enhancing some already significant vistas. Do we really want our town to be defined by these ubiquitous, pop-up developments?

From Cllr Catherine Groves

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Just for information, the award category we're up for is nothing to do with architecture, but is to do with community

From Jane Greenwood

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

I was surprised by Cllr Press's message. She's one of the people I normally find myself in agreement with, and enjoy occasionally reading her Grimmer up North blog, and wish her well in her bid to gain a seat on Labour's National Executive.

However, I don't agree with her about the Town Hall. I find the proposed development of the Town Hall very exciting. The key difference between this development and Garden Street is that what is proposed for the Town Hall has been the subject of endless consultations and very well-attended open days. I have been to them, and my overall impression has been of widespread enthusiasm and support. I remember councillors and shopkeepers holding back pedestrianisation over for over 20 years because that too would "ruin our town centre". Look what a success that has been.

From Cllr Susan Press

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

I agreed wholeheartedly with the pedestrianisation and served on the Traffic review which made it happen. The point is that enhanced the town spectacularly.

Without wishing to repeat myself, this development will not. As some councillors pointed out (four of us opposed and two abstained) it is intrusive, inappropriate and aesthetically unpleasing and totally at odds with the surrounding architecture. The focus on commerce (40 planned business units) rather than community is something which also concerns me.

It is certainly not what I had in mind when the Town Hall was handed over..... I don't want Hebden Bridge to be a theme park. I don't want either for its character to be compromised .......

From Jan Scott Nelson

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

So, are we to conclude that the townspeople, who attended the consultation days in their droves, were wrong and that Cllr Press is right?
I don't think so.

From Cllr Susan Press

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Just to set things straight, I am far from being the only councillor opposed to these plans. Three others (Boggis, Young ,Davenport) opposed and two more, abstained. At least one councillor I know who was on holiday at the time of the vote told me he would have voted against so to suggest I am isolated in my view is utterly erroneous. This aplication got through by ONE vote. The views on this thread are also clearly divided.

From Susan Burns

Thursday, 9 September 2010

I agree with Gwen Goddard. I like the design of the proposed extension. Hebden Bridge sorely needs some modern architecture to reflect the aesthetics of the 21st century - not faux-Victorian last-of-the-summer-wine nostalgia. As much of the building's use will be dedicated to our young people, a fresh, contemporary look and feel is precisely what's needed. Disappointing that Susan Press has pitched in at this late stage with such antedeluvian views. Also, businesses are part of the community not separate from it. It is not her place to be scathing about the pioneering plans for the building's mixed use - there are some amazing projects already up and running that combine community use with workspace for small businesses: she should get out and see some.

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 9 September 2010

I didn't realise that the Town Hall development involved a large amount of new building. That's entirely my fault, as there has been no shortage of awareness of the consultation process. In that respect HBCA has been brilliant.

Having now looked at the plans, I think they're fine from a purely architectural point of view. I do though have two concerns.

First, parking. It looks as though 23 current spaces would have to go, and increased activity on the site would create demand for perhaps the same number again. We could therefore be looking at a need for 30-50 parking spaces. Where would they come from? If we don't want Garden Street to rear its ugly head again, this is something that can't be ignored.

Second, where is the commercial demand for a significant new supply of office space? Has market research been done, or is demand simply assumed? I'm not aware that there is a shortage of office space in Hebden Bridge, and more is planned on Victoria Road. I'm also doubtful that there will be enough new 'community use' to prevent existing venues from losing out.

I've looked at the HBCA website for reassurances and found none. It's great to see people committed to saving the Town Hall, but in the long term the project has to (a) pay its way and (b) not be the cause of problems to other businesses and activities in the town. As things stand, it may not manage either.

From Paul Coates

Thursday, 9 September 2010

In response to Susan Press' comments, I'd like to add my tuppence worth. From the designs I saw at their wonderful opening day, the original town hall will be untouched and complimented by the dynamic new design - new and old can look so wonderful together as I recently discovered passing the Glasshouse Hotel in Edinburgh.

The plans for the town hall build is far from being a theme park. Or a 'carbuncle', which is a cheap shot to say the least. If you're going to take a swipe at modernity, are Prince Charles' shoulders really the ones you wish to stand on?

As a freelancer who once spent 9 months on a long waiting list for an office in space restricted Hebden the idea that new spaces will be available is exciting, and of course these should be paid for. My understanding is that the Town Hall will offer reasonable rates in order to attract all kinds of businesses (allowing new and burgeoning ventures a place to begin). This sounds very community minded to me.

On a smaller, perhaps petty note, Susan says the divided opinion on this very thread proves how many people are against it. Apart from her own, which she repeats several times, one other person is against the development and one person starts the thread without actually stating their opinion. With my comment, this makes it 7 to 2 (with one opinion unstated) for the development, which I suspect actually is about right.

I wish the Town Hall continued success in their ambitions, and look forward to a bright and exciting future in our unique town.

From Cllr Susan Press

Friday, 10 September 2010

1. My "theme park" reference was to not wanting Hebden to be a twee nostalgia-fest.

2. The Town Council was totally split on the issue and the plans were carried by one vote.

3. The reason I have pitched in at this late stage is most of my year has been preoccupied with family illness.

4. I would rather see the millions of pounds being poured into this project spent on social housing, youth facilities and better public transport If that is "antediluvian" I make no apologies. This week I was one of two councillors to back a £10,000 grant for Dodd Naze community centre. Unfortunately, again, I was in the minority and they got rather less.
Perhaps it's time we took a look at our priorities

From Nick Wilding

Friday, 12 November 2010

When we made the film that was initially used to help the town save the Council offices or town hall building, neither Dorothy Sutcliffe, a major contributor, nor I, as the producer, ever envisaged that anyone would ever consider demolishing the old library building (pictured here in the setting sun) that adjoins it. As you can see from the picture, this is a perfectly good Edwardian building with arched windows upstairs and an arched doorway that still has the mechanism for craning up materials above it. The position, attached to the main building and in relation to the old packhorse bridge, makes it integral to the conservation area.

Town Hall building

Current architects' plans envisage the complete demolition of this building and in its place they will be creating an empty space. It is being removed, just because it is in the way of the view from the windows of the new development. We do not feel that any Edwardian building should simply be removed, just because it is spoiling the potential view from the offices of a new development, but the fact that it is attached to a grade 2 listed building should have given it the same protection as the Town Hall itself. We were consequently surprised that the Council has supported plans to demolish it.

When there was a planning decision to knock down Nutclough Terrace in the 1980's, it was stopped through a high court injunction, because it adjoined Nutclough Mill, a grade two listed building and was thereby protected as being within its curtilage. The old Council library does adjoin just such a grade 2 listed building. In fact, the Hebden Bridge Community Association describe the old Council Offices as 'Hebden Bridge's Best Building'.

The old Library building does indeed have a historic significance in the town. It originally housed the generators for the town's tramway system. This was pointed out to the developers in the Conservation architects report, but was presumably not emphasised too strongly to the Councillors, because it could have been an inconvenient fact that might just have made a difference to their decision to demolish it. You have to bear in mind that Hebden Royd Council only passed these plans by one vote. This might have made a difference.

If you feel as we do and want to save this building, please do sign our petition that asks the Hebden Bridge Community Association to reconsider their plan to demolish this building. You will thereby show them that this act is not popular with a substantial number of local people, whose interests they would claim to represent. If the trustees decided to collapse this building, they could do so tomorrow, if they wanted. However, they are not ruthless developers, but well-meaning people. We believe that the trustees of the Town Hall are a genuine and understanding group of people, who would not wish to ride roughshod over the views of so many concerned local people who have already signed our petition to save the building.

Dorothy Sutcliffe and I, through making the promotional dvd for the Town Hall, were amongst the very first people to become 'Friends of the Town Hall' and are proud to have been so, but we believe that dropping a grade 2 listed building, so that a new development can have a view, is quite simply wrong. It would, after all, be a shame if the saviours of this great building were to be ever remembered as the destroyers of a part of that same heritage, which they so actively sought to originally protect!

From Patsy Frederiksen

Friday, 12 November 2010

Yes, Nick, I'd like to sign the petition, but where do I find it? I'd rather sign a 'paper' petition rather then an on-line copy if possible. Perhaps you could give details of where to find both, for other interested people?

From David R

Sunday, 14 November 2010

I'm glad Nick has raised this issue. I very nearly posted something similar a while age (although my knowledge of the history of the building was, until now, very limited).

When looking through old photographs of Hebden Bridge it makes me sad to see just how many wonderful and honest buildings were demolished due to a lack of resources or at worst a lack of foresight. Despite this, Hebden Bridge has managed to keep hold of many more historic buildings than some more unfortunate towns and cities.

Surely we should be able to learn from mistakes made in the past, whilst also having far more resources than our forefathers to keep such historic buildings living.


From Nick Wilding

Monday, 15 November 2010

You can find the petition in the HB TIC or at Lyn and Fran Crabtree's clothing shop or at Duncan Mckie's kitchen utensils shop or if you know me and see me in the street I have one in my briefcase!

From Andrew Hall

Monday, 15 November 2010

Thanks, Nick, for bringing our attention to this.

I, probably like many others, supported the concept of community ownership of this asset, but failed to look at the detail. Ok - mea culpa. We all had our chance to comment but some of us stayed quiet.

What we have now is something that is probably too large to be viable. It's all about office space, commercialisation and maximising profits. I do wonder whether the demand is there for what is on offer. If not, and the building goes ahead, who is responsible when we are left with empty rooms and a white elephant?

And all that's even before I get to Nick's point. To demolish a perfectly good, serviceable and well built Edwardian building is short sighted. It's the policy of the sixties - away with the old and in with the new. In Hebden Bridge in particular, we're living with that legacy. So many fantastic buildings were lost in that era; buildings which, had they survived another ten or fifteen years, would be with us now, and be loved and cherished. Have we really learned nothing from the mistakes of the sixties?

I'm beginning to wonder if we can really trust our 'trustees'. It seems to be a case of 'vaulting ambition which o'erleaps itself'. And we all know what happened in the Scottish play!

From Andrew Bibby

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Perhaps I can be allowed to respond to the recent postings here about the development plans for the Town Hall on behalf of the Community Association trustees.

Nick Wilding has raised the question of why the plans include the demolition of the later extension at the rear of the main Town Hall. This building has been various things in its life, including a power transmission station, a library and the housing offices.

Throughout the development of the plans for the Town Hall, we have done our very best to ensure that there is full public consultation, and we have tried to take on board the views which have come back to us as a result of that consultation. We held consultations in October last year and then on February 13, May 22 and again on July 24. We've also had loads of information about the plans on our website.

We took two alternative suggestions to the February consultation, which was very well attended. One involved retention of the rear extension, with new buildings slotted in around it. The other involved demolition of the extension, with the creation of a new public courtyard beside the river Hebden and new buildings beyond. We asked people what they thought. We ourselves on the board of trustees saw advantages and disadvantages in both approaches, and at that stage would probably have been prepared to go with either.

There was a very strong majority feeling from that consultation, represented in what people said to us and the comments they left, that people wanted to maximise the river frontage of the site, that they wanted to have the new courtyard and that they thought the loss of the existing building was justified. This wasn't everyone's opinion, but it was the feelings of the bulk of the people there. People told us that they were enormously excited at the possibility of a new public hall alongside the river.

I don't know whether Nick himself was at the Feb consultation, but we did notify all our 500+ Friends in advance about the event, and we also had a stall in St George's Square that morning telling people to come along to the Town Hall, so we did our very best to ensure that this was widely known about.

You either do public consultation or you don't. If you do, it's a sham if you then promptly take no notice of what people are telling you. So as trustees we did take on board the comments we received, and we asked our architects to work up the plans for the development on that basis. We brought back the plans for further comment from the community on May 22nd.

Our completed plans went in for planning approval in mid July, and everyone locally then had several months to comment on these plans. The planning hearing was last month. There were something like 40 letters of support received by Calderdale, and about 15 against. The Business Association objected on grounds of loss of parking, but almost nobody raised what Nick is now raising, which is the architectural loss of the rear building. At the planning committee meeting, there were packed public benches, with about 20 local people there. Everyone there supported the application. Nobody was there to oppose it. None of the people who had sent in objections took advantage of their right to speak to the planning committee.

As you would expect, we needed to engage with English Heritage and with Calderdale's own conservation staff about our proposals, and Calderdale's planning committee could very easily have chosen to reject our application for listed building consent if they had not liked what was being proposed. They gave us listed building consent. In fact, the assessment on the architectural value or otherwise of our plans which was prepared by Calderdale's staff was very positive. It includes the following comments:

"The proposals are well crafted in architectural terms. Further the proposals provide the Town Hall with a cogent and user-friendly plan, circulation routes and amenity spaces.. The plan creates a new urban space from which views across out of and into the Conservation Area are achieved. The riverside 'corridor' effect of the existing buildings, especially when viewed from St George's bridge, is reduced and more of the historic openness is returned with buildings that actually address the river frontage rather than present their side elevations to it. With regard to the architectural palette and style adopted for the proposals, this is muted, but of sufficient character and it pays reference to the existing listed building in a complementary manner . . . The existing buildings do not address the river in an accessible way. They merely use the river corridor for light access and the corridor remains such, with no public benefit. The proposals enhance the experience of the town and add to its views and public experience."

There's another point around sustainability, which is that it is much easier to design a new building to be energy efficient than to retrofit an existing building which in this case is in fairly poor nick (windows etc). (We will of course be recycling the materials, not just dumping them.)

Of course, you can't please everyone, and I'm sorry we're not pleasing Nick. But it does seem unbelievably late in the day, months and months into the planning process and after planning permission and listed building consent has been granted, for Nick suddenly to raise these concerns. The reality is that we can't possibly reopen this now without losing the funding packages which we have (with a lot of hard work by volunteers) managed to assemble for the proposals. What encourages us is that loads of people locally tell us that they really like what the architects have devised, and they really like the new facilities we hope to make available for the town. We think the riverside courtyard will provide a really special town centre location for a whole range of events.

From David R

Saturday, 18 December 2010

I see that these plans have progressed further. I previously commented on my disapointment at the planned demolition. I don't doubt the quality of the new plans.

If we wanted to I'm sure we could make a case for the demolition and replacement of every historic building in the town on the grounds of poor orientation etc. etc.

I know my comments, like others, have come a little late in the day. The problem is that vocal proposers/objectors are often quick to mobilise their backing and to gather "Friends", whilst the details can often fly under the radar of the silent majority like me.

Perhaps the problem is with the current planning process in general, which is more suited to shouters than listeners.

Like I say, the plans look good from what I've seen, but the proposed demolition of a building which still looks good approaching 2011 fills my mind with an awful lot of "modern" buildings that must have "looked good" to enough of the shouters at the time...

See also

HebWeb News - Calderdale planners give green light to Town Hall plans (Oct 2010)

HebWeb News - Town Hall Development Plans go to Calderdale

Public consultation on Town Hall plans (May 2010)

Hebden Bridge Town Hall passes into Community Ownership (March 2010)

Invitation to see plans for Town Hall (2 March 2010)

Invitation to see plans for Town Hall (Feb 2010)

Open Doors at Town Hall attracts hundreds