Citizens’ Forum – November 2021

Citizens’ Forum – November 2021

Citizens’ Forum – November 2021

Following the success of the first Citizens’ Forums in January 2021, the Board organised another two events in November to update everyone on the progress in between.

It provided an opportunity for the community to catch up with all the latest news and plans for our investment in projects recently revised to meet the Town Deal Fund offer.

This time one of the events was ‘live’ in the Hippodrome Theatre on Sunday 7th November – and the other one was online via zoom the following evening.

You can view Monday’s online presentation here on our YouTube Channel – and view a summary of the Q & A’s from both events just below.

Q & A’s from the Todmorden Town Board’s Citizens’ Forums on the 7th & 8th November 2021

Please note: The questions and answers displayed here are a very much raw and ‘verbatim’ transcription of those asked and responded to in the meetings and so may not always be as grammatically perfect as they possibly could be. 

Questions were answered by different members of the Board and their advisors, which you will notice in the language of the responses, and some questions were answered by more than one person.

Questions from Live Presentation at The Hippodrome on 7th Nov 2021

Have you included any projects related to green energy, possibly working with graduates? And maybe you could look at accommodation buildings to encourage tourism?

We will be investing in green energy. We have a subgroup on sustainability. You are welcome to join this.

We also recognise the need for accommodation.

My reason for coming was that I don’t want a hotel. Is the Pollination Garden area going to expand because we are not going to have a hotel? And how are you going to deal with flood issues?

There won’t be a hotel on Lever street. There will be a lot of investment on the Rose Street site. We will be creating a sustainable structure on a flood plain. We can build an enterprise centre on a flood plain. Please do come and talk to us about your ideas.

I am very concerned regarding the flooding issues. Our house flooded last weekend. It goes unheard because it’s seen as only the cellar.

Hopefully, we can tackle flood issues by working with other agencies/organisations.

(Related to previous question) Perhaps we can look at taking energy out of the water?

We have asked a Sustainability Consultant to look at this. We will have a real mix of sustainable energy sources.

It is not clear how this will all be managed. Will there be a possibility of a trust managing the project?

We will look at that. We have a set of rules given to us by government. If it makes sense, we can see what’s possible. We have to consider that the accountable body is Calderdale. But that doesn’t rule out a Trust at some point.

I am disappointed that there is no reference included to Incredible Edible. There are opportunities to build on this. It shouldn’t be neglected.

Agreed. Delighted to hear you say that. There is indeed a plan for green infrastructure and pollination in the programme.

Regarding Dale Street car park, I heard that hotel is not now being built. But people value that space. It is an asset to town but the carpark could be marketed as an attraction with steps down to it etc

Agreed that the space canal side is an asset that should be considered.

Can you explain more about the Murmuration workshops. And regarding the Enterprise Centre – can you say more about that. We don’t need another café.

Regarding Murmuration Workshops, Andrew Kim who is not here is driving this project. It is a space for artists and others eg. puppetry, ceramics etc. The idea came from the creative sector. There is a dearth of space for creatives. We haven’t gone into the details of the Enterprise Centre. It could be a place for some workshops. It is still in negotiation.

(Statement) All the crafts and skills people have gone from Todmorden.

It is not a detailed plan. Do have conversations with us.

One thing we are scared about is flooding. But 99 per cent of the time the river doesn’t flood. We have a resource in the river which we are not looking at. Bridgegate in Hebden Bridge is a great resource by the river. We need to open up and use the river.

I couldn’t agree more. There is so much potential. We would like to see it included. It is madness to not get the most out of the river. One thing I was hoping for is to see if we can bring in the best minds via a competition regarding the Enterprise Centre and the green public realm. Our aspiration certainly shouldn’t be concrete blocks.

Regarding the Pollination Street area, I have been down quite a bit in last year. It is used as an informal public space, it's important not to forget spaces. Space is really important in any town. Just to have free space. Important for people. The people in the sheltered housing nearby have enjoyed it. It creates a Heart of the town. We do need to be left at the end with an informal space – where things can happen.

Everyone would agree with you. Part of the vision is to have a central public space. We have a 10 month period to get it right. We will have green infrastructure in the centre of Tod.

Pam mentioned the money is going to be used for capital projects and not for revenue – and that Calderdale are involved. Will the council staff be managing these projects?

The Council is stretched. We have programme support from the council and underneath here there are project managers. The Board is clear that there needs to be the right resources available. It needs to be a success. We have not got everyone in place but we will have.

There are some fantastic projects here but I am a single parent with two young children. I am concerned with the lack of sporting areas. Why isn’t that a focus. Perhaps there is a chance to recognise this?

We are operating in an area of the town where opportunities are limited. But we are looking at bowling (not for a young age group), tennis etc. We are looking at an all-purpose pitch and people are talking to each other.

Riverside is a great facility for young people to do canoeing. We have a youth board. Let us know how we can make it better and if we have missed something then let me know.

How is the Tourism Information Centre tourism involved? And I am conscious that some of these places eg. the Town Hall and the Enterprise Centre could be in competition with each other which we don’t want.

I agree with the second point. We cannot be duplicating and doubling up. Bids need to be handled strategically. Regarding the Tourist Information Centre, we will look to get them more involved.  We would like to think we can be more proactive.

Cllr Susan Press then informed the assembled audience that the Town Hall Group have been having a conversation regarding the Tourist Information Centre being placed within the Town Hall.

Questions from Online Presentation via Zoom on 8th Nov 2021

Has Riverside been assessed for suitability for water-based activities?

The current users have individual risk assessments in place.

Shame about losing Tod Sports Centre football though. Tod football is poorly served...

… continued… Is there anything we can do to support youth football? We have so many players but inadequate training space and a pitch…

Bellholme was meant to be for local organisations, yet the advert shows a school from Rochdale. Good to share our facilities but the football is a big issue especially with no decent size all-weather pitch. I feel for all those associated with Tod Boro and the Junior football club. Tried their best to play regular football in the East Lancs league but the training and pitch availability is dire. Not helped now with Walsden Rec being dug up for a season for the river work.

A: Riverside trustees have, since securing the site for the wider community, made the site more inclusive and available to more potential users and will continue to do so. Junior football was one of those groups previously denied access. The trustees and Town Deal have done more than anyone else past or present to try to create a 3G (all-weather) pitch for the town. We invested £2.5K in a feasibility study on the former Bellholme site. Unfortunately, there were several potential barriers to the implementation of such a project. Whilst the Town Deal Board supported the Riverside project with a bid of c£350K towards the cost of a 3G pitch there was no certainty of match funding from the Premiership Foundation. There is a requirement of a sinking fund to generate £30k a year to replace the surface at the end of its life. Whilst there is a strong local junior club there is no guarantee of continuous use at an affordable rate that would make the project financially viable. Most 3G pitches are in institutions such as schools, academies, or universities where they will get the maximum use the FA will grant financial support for. There are also concerns about the environmental impact for the surface rubber crumb leaching into waterways and there would likely be objections to strong floodlighting in an area of natural beauty. It is possible that many of these obstacles could be overcome in time, but time is not on our side. The waiting list for installers of such pitches would put the Riverside project delivery in danger of not meeting the government timescale for funding. So rather than losing the c£350k from the bid, it is proposed to apply that to more general sports and leisure facilities for the wider community use and for local economic benefits. Riverside had however, been awarded an FA grass pitch improvement grant but this is may not now be implemented as the Junior club chose to withdraw from the site negating the justification for the FA to continue funding this.

Comment from scout leader: The Scouts have been using Riverside for kayaking and canoeing. We have use of the canal (arrangement with C&RT) and hope to introduce a container there and use the facilities.

Comment from original questioner: Thanks, I had a notion it was going to be something open to everyone like a paddle boarding school etc

Comment from scout leader: We are hoping if we create the facility there to open it to other organised groups, like local schools. Paddleboards don’t fit with our volunteer skills but we’re hoping to be off paddleboarding elsewhere soon.

Town Deal Board Response: There will be opportunities to include more open access for such public use once funding is finally confirmed and a full business case is developed.

What I am curious about is that of the 100 town areas that bid for up to £25 million or more, the average award was £23 million. Todmorden was 94th out of 100 towns in the amount of core funding awarded and around 30 towns received the full amount they bid for. Why did we lose so much core investment and what has the Town Deal Board learnt so we present the highest quality business cases?

We were offered the opportunity to bid for “Up to” £25m. The time scale to do this was a massive challenge using a substantial amount of voluntary time and local expertise. The government gave no specific reasons for offering £17.5m but they did not question the feasibility of any of the projects. The current offer is still a huge amount of money and puts Todmorden (with a relatively small population) in the top quartile of funding per head of the population. This represents a significant positive achievement.

(For full response see forum video 1.06.40)

You mentioned improving access from the rail station to the town centre. Do know how you will achieve this?

From Cllr Press: We are still waiting on step-free access but that is separate govt pot and being administered by Calderdale MBC

(For full response see forum video 1.10)

Are there any plans to use the Hippodrome as a cinema on an ongoing basis rather than the occasional showings of older films they put on at present? It seems a shame to have to go out of town to see the latest releases. Hebden Bridge shows that this is sustainable in a small town.

We believe that they are seeking to significantly upgrade the projection equipment and offer a better cinematic experience than at present.

You mentioned that there were many national trails nearby Riverside (Calderdale Way, PBW, Pennine Wy etc). Are there any further details yet on how the Town Deal will link with these and access into the hills around Tod?

The Town Deal does not have a remit for extending outside the boundaries of individual projects, but we will seek to influence activities and improvements that border our projects.

Additional comment: Would be pleased to talk to Riverside about accessing the National Trails etc and the needs for repairs and maintenance of the trails, footpaths, bridleways etc

(This was followed up by email)

Any plans for more vehicle electric charging points?

From Cllr. Press: Yes, but not this funding tranche. It’s part of Calderdale climate emergency strategy.

What happens next to redesign the central square and layout of the outdoor market?

There will be a full discussion at the board about how we seek views on this central project. It may be a competition, following consultations but it must be what the people of Todmorden aspire to. The limitations on this are the delivery timescales and the need to have a full business case by June 2020.

(For full response see forum video 1.24)

Regarding Todmorden College, there appears to be a focus on arts and community uses which is great, however, are there any plans to also run courses focusing on practical job skills such as green technology, computer programming, languages etc?

Yes, they are already running skills-based courses.

(For full response see forum video 1.24)

With regards to the ‘Active Todmorden’ project - what improvements are planned to access from/to the town from the canal?

In short yes, just as it is important to get from the rail station to the town centre is it just as important to get to and from the canal.

(For full response see forum video 1.14.20)