Contributed by Vice Chairman John Russell
We were delighted to receive a copy of your spring newsletter and offer our congratulations on achieving your 40th anniversary.
It is our pleasure to respond to your request and contribute a few lines on the Leek Society for your next issue.
We cannot match your 40 years but at 32 are not that far behind. So what can we say about the Leek Society?. Firstly, our full name is the Leek and District Civic Society as we seek to monitor and be involved with developments not just in the Leek town area but also those in another 18 civil parishes. Our objectives are very much in line with what you do for Newcastle and the phrase “none of us is getting any younger” picked up from your Chairman’s message rings very true with our group. We too would like to attract more new, perhaps younger, members!
What then do we actually do and what have we achieved recently?
Firstly on a month by month basis, and probably, like yourselves, we aim to monitor, review, object if necessary to any developments proposed for our area. It is a great help with this that the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council has a “Conservation Area Liaison Advisory Panel” on which we have a valued seat. This panel meets to consider proposals affecting conservation areas throughout the Council’s domain. Although only advisory (final decisions being taken by the Planning Committee) membership does give us an opportunity to comment at an early stage, and of course feedback details to our members at large.
Every year we run an ‘Awards Scheme for the Enhancement of the Environment’. Here we invite entries from within our area for developments which have taken place in the previous calendar year to be considered for an award. We are trying to encourage developments to be generally enhancing to the street scene and for this reason entries for our competition must be visible to the general public. We say for example that a new front wall, porch etc would be an eligible entry but a rear conservatory, however praiseworthy, would not. Of course the full rules are more complicated than this simplistic overview, but we do like to keep things as simple as possible and to offer maximum encouragement for developers to enter the competition. Awards in the form of “Certificates of Merit” are given to all parties concerned with a scheme meeting our standard that includes the owner, architect and builder as we feel all concerned with a successful project should be recognised. We offer the project considered the best overall a brass plaque which can be mounted on the development.
We have long sought to make Leek a greener place and have tried to encourage tree planting within the town. Newcastle, incidentally, does well in this respect. Recently we have been instrumental in having a tree planted in Leek Market Place to recognise 800 years of the granting of a Market Charter. You and your members will be well aware of the difficulties (and expense) of such an apparently simple task. This planting builds on the success we had in arranging sponsorship for trees to be planted around a re-developed car park in Leek town centre. This was, until our intervention, going to be left without the softening/ enhancing effect trees have on most developments.
So without making this too long I think you can see that, although we are only your little brother, we both share similar aspirations for our area of interest.