I seem to be turning into a cross between Boudicca and Emmeline Pankhurst as I get older and I am not altogether pleased with the effect! I can't help myself -if I see injustice, suffering or liberty threatened I'm on my soapbox rallying the troops! Maybe it's an age thing-or maybe I realise now that if you are the silent majority you are unable to influence anything and it's no good moaning after the deed is done.
So what's the problem you might ask? Well a not so local developer called Story Homes of Carlisle has begun a speculative development in a field just a stone's throw from Furness Abbey. The plan is to build 50 houses on the field on Manor Road-the main approach to the abbey and within the conservation area. You might think-well in a conservation area they won't be able to do this...maybe once over-but not now with deregulation. You only have to look at the plight of Oswestry Hill Fort-an iron age fort-"Oswestry Hillfort is one of the greatest archaeological monuments of the nation." English Heritage"
Has this stopped the developers-not on your nelly! It matters not that this is a hugely important historic site-nor does it seem to matter to Shropshire Council who have granted planning permission on the foothills of the site. Can you imagine this happening in the USA? Or any other country with any sense?
Our plight is not dissimilar. Furness Abbey is a hugely significant historic site-in fact even Henry Vlll knew exactly how important it was-as he made it the first large abbey to be dissolved. So within 200 yards there is a field-agricultural land undisturbed and not of great note at first appraisal. But look closer and there is a Grade 1 listed precinct wall and the West Gate...rather too close for a modern housing estate to be built on it. Next we have a river-which overflows-often and flows into an underground channel beneath the road and into the abbey. Two years ago this stream broke its bank and flowed over the road creating a swimming pool in the cloister.
Mill Beck full to brimming 2012 (S Hillman)
A flooded cloister-from Mill Beck 2012 (S Priss)
If the building is allowed to go ahead the idea the developer has put forward to offset any future flooding arising from the excess water from a built environment is to provide a 30 foot pond to act as a sump to drain the estate. The excess will then be diverted into Mill Beck. Now the above flood happened without 50 houses above the valley-so what can we expect if this goes ahead? A Cistercian Atlantis?
The plans a re ludicrous and one of the issues apart from flooding is the effect on the aesthetic approach to the abbey-which will damage the visitor experience massively. Then the placing of homes-and people so close to a delicate Grade 1 listed wall and arch is a disaster waiting to happen. The developer will not be able to guarantee the safety and preservation of either wall or environment once the houses are sold-and any damage done will be irreversible. We can only hope that the Barrow Borough Council Planning Department, English Heritage and the Environment Agency will see the folly in this and help to reverse it.
Furness Abbey is the major visitor attraction in the area apart from the Dock Museum-and of course is more significant historically. With the work that the local Furness Abbey Fellowship have done alongside EH it would be foolhardy and destructive to allow this to happen-particularly as the prize of the century is returning soon to the abbey-the crosier and ring. These amazingly important artefacts will be the jewel in the crown of Barrow and Dalton's heritage and could with some more work be a boost to the local economy through visitors and tourism.
If you want to support our efforts to stop this thoughtless and reckless idea please visit the website, twitter and Facebook below: and sign the petition