After an enforced hiatus, it was great to get back together to hear about all the projects and activities going on despite lockdowns, restrictions and everyone keeping safe during the pandemic. And while things may have ground to a halt for a moment there – we soon were up and running with Skate Park, Street Art, public awareness campaigns, our new website, talks and guided walks…

Attendance was a resounding success. The evening began with the results of our Civic Design Awards, with winner and commendation presentation by Richard MacRae, Mayor of Broxtowe.

WINNER – Beeston Street Art. Award accepted by BSA’s young representative Elson. (l-r: Cllr Carr, Elson, Mayor of Broxtowe)

Our Chair’s Annual Report.

This report also covers part of our 2019-20 Season as the pandemic curtailed most of our public activities for that year as events such as the Beeston carnival were all cancelled.  After seeking guidance from the Charity Commission we did not hold an AGM last year, but committee members who had been elected at the 2019 AGM agreed to continue in post until this year. We have gradually been resuming our activities but this report may not seem as full as those from previous years.

Talks + Walks

The first lockdown in the spring of 2019 and the closure of the Pearson Centre meant that we had to cancel the remainder of that Season’s talks and the planned series of walks was also curtailed although a brief respite in the summer months meant that we were able to organise one well attended guided walk based on the University campus. 

Professor John Beckett has again led 3 Guided Walks for us this summer,  all of which proved very popular, numbers attracted have been up to 30, both members and non –members, and  of course they bring the Society to the attention of the public.  Perhaps the most popular this year was a new one about the Changing Face of Beeston High Road, which took place on one of the hottest days of the year. We were treated to a fascinating guide to the many changes that have taken place over the years and which led to the sharing a lot of reminiscences by those taking part. Thanks must go to both Professor Beckett and Jill Oakland from the History Society for giving up their time both to research, provide archival material and lead these walks.  

Our series of Friday night talks has now restarted.  In September for Heritage Open Days we held a joint talk with the Local History Society when Dr Richard Gaunt gave a talk on the recent transformational changes made to Nottingham Castle, with a particular emphasis on his involvement and area of expertise. It has been suggested that such a joint talk could become an annual event for Heritage Open Days.  In October we moved back to the Pearson Centre where Paul Wolverson the Head of Environmental Services at Broxtowe came to give an interactive talk on the Council’s Green Futures proposals; this was a lively and interactive evening with audience participation actively encouraged.

Planning

The society has continued to monitor and comment on, or object to, planning applications and to submit responses to both relevant national and local consultations Most recently we were invited by Broxtowe Borough Council to be consultees on the next Core Strategy which will influence future development in the Borough over the next fifteen years.  The majority of applications which we look at continue to be for changes to individual domestic buildings, but there has been a noticeable increase in the number of applications for conversion to Houses in Multiple Occupation and for blocks of student flats, as at the empty Nottingham College, on the site of Kings carpets, and the Wollaton Rd Methodist Chapel and there are similar ones in the offing. We started a campaign to get Broxtowe Council to control the spread of HMOs with an Article 4 Direction well before the pandemic.  This is still not in place but is expected to come into force next year. Unfortunately it may already well be too late to have much impact. We have also made representations on volume housebuilder applications such as at the Maltings site and the old Station Yard in Beeston and proposals around Wilmot Lane and Ellis Grove for a residential care home and a proposal for residential flats for the retirement market by Churchill Homes. 

Design Awards

Earlier this year we once again sought nominations for the biennial Design Award; we expanded the categories to cover more than just buildings and appointed a panel of external judges. Certificates have been presented to those which the judges considered to be the best entries from what was admittedly quite a small number of nominations. We continue to hope that drawing attention to, and rewarding, good design means that in future we will see and encourage more exciting developments in our area. We thank the judges for agreeing to give up their time to take part.

Trees/greening

Before Covid lockdowns the committee had agreed a sum of money to be allocated for more tree planting initiatives. Plans for a joint tree planting project with Broxtowe Council near Ghost House Lane at Inham Nook had to be postponed last Autumn due to Covid restrictions but we anticipate that this will be able to progress this season. We continue to look for areas in need of greening/planting.  A start has been made by members of the committee on creating a ‘wildlife roof garden’ on the flat roof opposite Tesco, above the ‘Beos Tun’ Beeston Street Art mural – in a bid to put Bees Back in Beeston

Collaborative Activities

Members of the committee liaised with Skate Nottingham, Skateboard GB   and Broxtowe Borough Council to identify a Beeston location for a skate park project.  Working with young volunteers and Skate Nottingham a successful weekend saw construction take place on the pilot site at Beeston Fields Recreation Ground. This was funded by both national funding and money donated by County Councillor Steve Carr from his divisional fund.

There has been further collaboration in terms of support and the active involvement of some committee members with both the Wall Art group and the Beeston Showcase Group and their projects. The committee agreed that they should continue to use the Civic Society bank account to hold their funds. Committee members are also joining in on the John Clifford School’s Wildlife Garden Project – creating a new garden, with beehives and bees for 2022.

 Some early investigative collaboration with the architectural historian working on the updating of the Pevsner Guide to the Buildings of Nottinghamshire resulted in more entries for our local buildings than in earlier editions.

Nottingham Camra have sought our support in their attempts to lobby Broxtowe council to comply with the local plan policy to establish and publish a local list of non- designated heritage assets, something that we have also been lobbying for over several years now but with little success so far.

Website and Social media. 

The Society website has been updated with a refreshed design and better functionality so that members and visitors to our site can more easily find information, interact with us on current campaigns, and see what we’re up to. Hopefully it is also easier to navigate. Visit the new site at beestoncivicsociety.org.uk and use the Contact page to let us know what you think.

The Society also now has an Instagram account – for posting everything and anything visually interesting about Beeston and nearby, and what we’re up to in the Society. If you are interested in photography, heritage and conservation, we heartily recommend signing up to Instagram. There are plenty of local accounts on there. If you’re already on it and share your photos of local buildings, projects, street scenes, or local heritage and nature – be sure to tag us, @BeestonCivicSociety, or use #BeestonCivic, so we can see your posts!

Newsletter

 We have continued to publish our quarterly newsletter for members. It was decided during the difficulties of distribution created by lockdown that the Newsletter should be published in digital format and this has been well received. It saves the costs of printing paper copies but also allows the Editor more flexibility in layout, use of colour or expansion when necessary. Many topics and local developments have been covered. 

New Committee Elected

Three members of the 2020/21 Committee were standing down this year:
Caroline Penn, (Acting Chair) – who has been on the committee for more than 30 years! Jim Donaghie (Editor), and Rob Murphy (Treasurer). The Society were united in their thanks and appreciation to all three for their time, expertise and hard work keeping the Society going, especially during the difficult circumstances of the last eighteen months. These were large shoes to fill.

Mervyn Brown decided to stand down as Secretary, but nominated instead to remain as a general officer. Also standing again as general officers were Jeanie O’Shea and Tamar Feast.

New nominations were received from: Dr Jo Norcup, Karen Stainer, Chryse Tinsley, Marysia Zipser, Gary Smerdon-White, and Julianne England. All as general officers.

All nominated were duly elected. Unfortunately, no nominations were received for Executive roles (Chair, Treasurer, Secretary) so it was accepted that the Committee would work together to establish covering these roles as best as possible between them – in accordance with the Constitution. Additional support was offered, and accepted, from Peter Robinson and Rob Murphy for the functioning of the Society.

The 2021/22 Committee therefore consists of:
Mervyn Brown
Jeanie O’Shea
Dr Jo Norcup
Tamar Feast
Karen Stainer
Chryse Tinsley
Gary Smerdon-White
Marysia Zipser
Julianne England

We hope to be able to introducing members to the new Committee, and their areas of expertise, to make enquiries easier and more direct.