New Year 2017 message from the Chairman
Last year (2016) has been a year of reduced activity for the Rowhedge Heritage Trust. In November 2015, with great sadness, we stopped actively pursuing our aim of building a Heritage Centre on the riverside site; the reasons for this are given elsewhere on this website. Furthermore, uncertainty about renewing the temporary planning permission, had reduced the numbers of RHT volunteers available for running the Heritage Hut. This prompted the committee to approach the Rowhedge Coastal Rowing Club (RCRC) with the offer for them to use of the hut as a club base. They agreed to continue to serve refreshments to the public, and provide a space for RHT exhibits. Renewal of the temporary planning permission was obtained, and the RCRC has opened the hut for business as usual. It has been much appreciated by the public and the new relationship has been very satisfactory.
Due to the reduced number of committee members, we can no longer keep up regular communications to our 500 or so members by email and letter. We are going to concentrate our effort on the website, and we will use this, together with posters on the notice boards, and announcements in free magazines and papers, to publish events and any other news. We are very sorry that this may affect some members who do not have access to these. However we hope to introduce a system whereby if a member provides self-addressed envelopes, we will use these to send them information about events to them.
One of the regular RHT events did take place last year was the Harris Rally. A report of this to be found under Past Events. We intend to hold this again in 2017, together with the popular Seafood picnic and, hopefully more of the supper talks that have been so well attended in previous years.
So now to 2017. RHT plan to concentrate on its main activities of researching, recording and preserving the heritage of Rowhedge. I am pleased to announce a very positive step is being taken to provide a permanent archive for the documents and artefacts collected by the RHT over the past decade. This will be located in the loft of the Village Hall. The RHT is providing a loft ladder, to allow limited access, as well as secure storage cabinets, and lighting. As part of the work in setting up the new facility, all items will be catalogued, and this will eventually be accessible via the website to members, and by arrangement, to the public. Physical access to the artefacts for research purposes will also be possible by arrangement. And from time to time the archive will be drawn upon for exhibitions held either in the hut or elsewhere. We are very grateful to the East Donyland Community Association for making this possible.
Which brings me to an important announcement. To celebrate the birth of the official RHT Archive, we shall be holding The Rowhedge Archive Exhibition to coincide with the AGM, in the Small Hall over the weekend of March 18 – 19. It will be an exhibition of everything, or nearly everything that we have in our archive. It won’t be in a very organised or curated form, but more like an Aladdin’s cave of treasures, and hopefully many of the visitors will help us to make sense of them.
The other important news is that RHT has purchased Firecrest, the first of a class of one-design dinghies that was built by the Rowhedge Ironworks. Firecrest 1 has been on loan to RHT for several years, but the purchase of her will enable us to carry out much needed maintenance and to increase the use of her at events, and by members interested in sailing this historic craft.
It only remains for me to wish you a rather belated but very Happy New Year and to look forward to seeing you again at the AGM and Exhibition – don’t forget March 18 – 19.
RHT REGRETTABLY WITHDRAW FROM THE PROJECT TO BUILD THE RIVERSIDE CENTRE
After 15 years of work to create a Riverside Heritage Centre the Rowhedge Heritage Trust has informed the East Donyland Parish Council and its members that they are finally stopping work on the work to create the Rowhedge Riverside Centre which had planning permission awarded in 2013.
The main reason for the decision is that prolonged negotiations with East Donyland Parish Council to get agreement for the building to go on the land given to the Parish for that purpose as a part of a 106 agreement means that the existing planning permission will expire in March 2016
The Rowhedge Heritage Trust aims to continue its work of celebrating the social and maritime heritage of the area and hopes to create exhibitions and run events such as the successful seafood picnic and Harris Smack rally to keep the traditions and heritage of the village alive for generations to come.
The many volunteers and committee members who have worked tirelessly over the years towards creating the Riverside Centre are obviously hugely disappointed but realise that the odds are now stacked against them and there is no longer a realistic prospect of getting the Centre built in the foreseeable future.
All the planning documents and business plans relating to the project will now be preserved in the anticipation that a future generation will want to pick up all the good work done over the last 15 years and when there is a greater willingness for the village to work together to provide a much needed community asset, on a wonderful site, next to the River, in the middle of this special village.
The following background note summarise the reasons for this, and a more detailed explanation is available under the heading Riverside Centre on this website.
SUMMARY OF REASONS FOR STOPPING WORK ON
THE RIVERSIDE CENTRE
Since planning permission for the proposed Riverside Centre was granted in March 2013 the RHT have been in negotiations with the East Donyland Parish Council in an attempt to obtain a lease so that funding and realisation work could commence. An advisory group was established by the council which recommended a four stage approach that the council could adopt to reach the necessary decisions. The first two stages were successfully completed in August of this year, these being the production of a revised Business Plan, and the validation of it by a firm of independent Chartered Accountants. This meant that the project could move to the next two stages, the commissioning of an independent referendum that would establish if the village supported the project and, if they did, the granting of a lease. The referendum was planned to be run by specialists from Essex University conforming to full electoral standards so that it eliminated the ambiguities of previous surveys and reflected true village opinion.
Regrettably, and without any consultation with RHT, at the same meeting that the council confirmed acceptance of the Business Plan, they put forward a proposal to reverse the order of the last two stages of the agreed plan. This meant that the council would work to establish the conditions of the lease before endorsing the commissioning of the referendum. The RHT felt strongly that this was the wrong approach as it was necessary establish village opinion before committing more time and money to the project. However the council subsequently called an Extraordinary General Meeting to identify what the lease should comprise. The outcome of this meeting revealed that a considerable amount of additional work would be required before the council would be able to even consider whether they could offer a lease on the land, let alone be in position to negotiate the actual terms they would propose it should contain; and all before village opinion was irrefutably settled. It therefore became apparent that this could not be accomplished before the expiry date of Planning Permission for the building.
This meant that the RHT was presented with the situation that they would have to start the whole process of applying for planning permission again, which would involve considerable repeat work and additional expense. Importantly, because the present hut from which fund raising and heritage activities are currently carried out only has temporary planning permission tied to planning approval for the main Riverside Centre, the hut would have to be removed when planning permission expired. Without the base from which to carry out its activities, the difficulties faced by RHT in progressing the project would be considerable.
There is still no forum where RHT and the council can work together to discuss and resolve problems that would enable the project to progress in a timely manner. As a consequence, the RHT committee felt there was no realistic prospect that the underlying difficulties that have beset this project since obtaining planning permission would be resolved. Therefore the RHT committee have regrettably decided to withdraw from further negotiations with EDPC and have informed the council of this decision and the reasons behind it.
It should be emphasised that withdrawal from the project does not mean the end of the RHT. The Rowhedge Heritage Trust was established as a charity with the aim of “providing the means where everyone in Rowhedge can participate in learning about and in celebrating the rich cultural, social and maritime heritage of the area so that community life is richer as a result”. Although we will no longer have a building acting as a centre for these activities, heritage activities and events both social and informative that have been the much appreciated hallmark of its work within the village over the years will continue.
A much more detailed and informative document covering the background to this decision and the full reasons underpinning it is available under the heading Riverside Centre on this website