Conservation consternation as councillor asks what's the point of updating records if no action taken

A town councillor sparked debate when he questioned is it worth spending time updating a report on conservation areas in the historic town of Garstang - if noone does anything to uphold conservation standards.

When should a town be concerned about its conservation?

That was the question debated at Garstang Town Council, with councillors disagreeing about the need to update local records of important historic buildings and areas of the picturesque and historic market town in Wyre.

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The split was prompted by an explanation from Wyre Borough Council's Conservation Officer that he had not got time to begin updating the Garstang Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan -- because he had to prioritise work in Fleetwood,

Coun Richard Dyer asked what's the end result going to be?

Mayor Coun Elizabeth Webster reported that Conservation Officer Ian Heywood had asked could Garstang Town Councillors or others volunteers do some preliminary work on updating the plan.

Coun Roger Brooks said he was willing to do that.

But Coun Richard Dyer challenged the wisdom of spending time on such a survey, pointing out that Garstang's Conservation areas seemed to be ignored, for example with inappropriate signage allowed to remain on the town's High Street.

He also said it was not appropriate to be telling other people that they could not have pvc windows, while allowing pink illuminated signs in the town. He said: "What's the point.? If it holds no power?...If we do a conservation plan what's the next step? We're updating a report that nobody is following."

Coun Roger Brooks - keen to make a start on recording the state of properties and signage in Garstang's conservation area

He stressed it was essential to know how long Wyre Council would take to act on the report if they prepared one.:"Are we looking at this date in six months or four years? I just think with any project you need an end date."

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District Coun Sir Robert Atkins urged the council to let Coun Brooks do some initial work and said: "We simply have got to do this...the Wyre planning committee is evaluating throughout the borough."

Coun Atkins dismissed the notion that town councillors would be issuing instructions about windows.

In her report to the council Mayor Coun Elizabeth Webster said Conservation Officer Mr Ian Heywood had suggested: "the best way to start the ball rolling ... would be to undertake a new ‘survey' of all the buildings in the conservation area noting their condition, current use and any obvious issues that are apparent, including signage of course."

Garstang's historic Market Place, High Street and market cross Photo: Dan Martino
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Coun Webster said Mr Heywood had advised his time was "very much focused on delivering the High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) for Fleetwood. He would like to know if we have any willing volunteers from within the ranks of Garstang Town Council, and elsewhere, to make a start "

She concluded: "The review of the Garstang CAAMP remains firmly on Ian's ‘to do’ list, however, he has advised Fleetwood must take a priority at the moment."

After listening to the debate Coun Webster told the meeting: "This existing document doesn't have any teeth because it's out of date...It should have been done before now but obviously resources are stretched and the conservation officer is asking for our support and involvement. Coun Brooks is willing to have a go."

Initially Coun Webster had suggested Couns Jonny Leech and Leah Hynes could take the project on as part of their work on conservation signage with other councillors who might like to be involved joining in.

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The Top Taste sign in Garstang

But she concluded :"I'm quite clear we are divided".

She said further information was now needed and she would contact the Heritage officer for further clarification including a time line for the project.

Coun Brooks urged a conciliatory approach with Wyre and said: "It's up to us to persuade them...I shall do surveys."

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He later seconded Coun Webster's proposal to get more information from Wyre.

* Wyre Council is currently investigating an alleged breach of planning control concerning an illuminated sign at the former Post office, now Top Taste, at 34 -37 High Street.

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Has the Conservation Area been ignored? Coun Richard Dyer says conservation standards have not been upheld.