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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Hoping town hall square facelift moves forward

It is hoped that plans for improvements to the area in front of Biddulph Town Hall, including making the miners’ memorial wheel more prominent, will gather pace in the coming weeks.

A proposal to remove the memorial to Victoria Memorial Park, on Station Road, was scrapped in 2021 following a public outcry because of the impact its removal would have on the town centre location.

But now it has been incorporated into plans to open up the town hall square not only to raise the memorial’s profile but also to make the location more accessible for public events.

The miner’s wheel was the balance wheel that once stood at the foot of the lift shaft at the town’s Victoria colliery. The late George Humphreys, who worked down the pit, had the wheel placed outside the town hall during his year as mayor in 1983.

His family wanted the memorial to remain outside the town hall and has been consulted about the plans, as has Biddulph in Bloom in relation to the planting programme for the surroundings.

The centrepiece of the scheme will be a raised curved brick plinth, on which the miner’s wheel will stand. The plinth will include hundreds of memorial bricks inscribed with the names of late or living former miners and those connected to the mining industry.

Another focal point will be an extension of the red block paved area to include a grey block paved pattern to represent the North Staffordshire mining seam and which would have lighting along it.

To make the miners’ wheel even more visible the front boundary wall will be removed.

Railings will also be relocated.

Other plans include the removal of the grassed area and ewe hedge, but there will be more seating, more trees planted, and two high raised brick planting beds would be installed.

Memorial roses, bushes, stones and other features within the main area will be “sensitively” relocated while the side garden would be opened up and benches added to promote increased public use.

It is hoped that the proposal will be approved at a meeting of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s Planning Applications committee on Thursday, 13th July.

Biddulph Town Council believes the green light would increase the chances of a successful bid for funding for the scheme from the £3.4m pot of cash the district council has by way of the Shared Prosperity Fund.

Town Coun Kevin Jackson who worked at Victoria Colliery, as did his later father and brother, said: “I can’t see it not getting approved. It’s the next stage in the process and after that we can really push forward with it.”

He said of the designs: “I’m really pleased with it, it will open up the front of the town hall.

One of the most exciting aspects is the memorial bricks. I’m confident we can get around 400 bricks with names on. There will be a couple for my late dad and brother and hopefully I’ll get one for myself as well.”

Coun Jackson added: “There’s been an ambition to open up the town hall frontage for a long time and hopefully it will help in the regeneration of the town centre.”

In respect of having planning approval in place to attract funding Sarah Haydon, the town council’s chief officer said: “Biddulph needs shovel-ready projects in place and this is one of them. And if we are going to do big infrastructure projects we will need to match-fund external financial support.

She hopes the new-look town hall frontage will become a more “sociable space” and indicated that it could make room for stallholders or buskers.

“It’s about making the miners’ memorial wheel more prominent but also make it a more sociable area with more benches. You could also have a cheese stall there for instance and there would be space for buskers. It would make the area more like a town square.”

The application reference on the district council’s planning portal is SMD/2023/0153. The public consultation period ends on Wednesday.

 

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