CARLISLE AND DISTRICT CIVIC TRUST – 50 YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Although we live in a diverse liberal representative democracy our ‘voice’ as individuals carries little weight – we might disagree with a political or commercial decision that affects us or that we feel has unforeseen repercussions but it is rare to find we can affect any meaningful change alone. With the pressures of A busy modern life we are soon ground down and perhaps many of us become, at least by appearance, too apathetic about things that still do matter to us. The built environment – where we live, what we see, where we enjoy to pass our time and where we work – including, crucially the manner in which we get there, is a case in point. We largely put our faith in government, national and local and the commercial world to look after the built environment for us. Whilst councillors, council officers, executives and shareholders may be mostly laudably motivated with systems to operate checks and balances such as planning and environmental legislation there are times when thinking is not ‘joined-up’ or when expert advice, whether for want of time or finance, is not or not adequately applied. It is therefore right and necessary for there to be non-legislative independent checks and balances where a collective and knowledgeable voice close to local issues can be put. This is the ground from which the voluntary sector operates and where the Civic Society movement forms its important role. Carlisle and District Civic Trust, since its inauguration 50 years ago is linked to the wider Civic Society movement and operates in areas of activity principally education, campaigning and recognition.
Through a series of monthly talks on topical environmental subjects, Trust members invite the public to join-in a quest to become more informed whilst also providing a platform for the raising of any new issues of concern that the Trust Committee can investigate.
The lecture series and public discourse also feeds into the campaigning role of the Trust. Campaigns include the significant saving of the Tithe Barn, however, many other campaigns may not be so high profile but can be equally significant. Highlighting and resisting the deliberate or neglectful failure of owners to maintain listed buildings which would otherwise lead to their loss is unfortunately quite common. Sites such as Suttle House on Wigton Road which remains ‘at risk’ or an old clay dabbin barn – a rare style of construction specific to the Solway Coast – which was sadly lost due to possible over precautionary demolition over Christmas upon safety grounds in Kirkandrews on Eden are both recent examples. The Trust is campaigning to make authorities and building owners aware that early preventative maintenance and assistance should be sought before buildings get to such levels of terminal neglect and whether a system of regular inspection/advice sessions can be deployed. We do not own our listed buildings or built environment we are custodians charged with enjoying and understanding their history and to pass the same on to future generations in as good or an even better condition – this is a challenge for all.
Where such buildings or links with historical events remain the Trust can recognise or underline their importance with the award and mounting of a wall plaque. There are a number of plaques in Carlisle and these represent a permanent reminder of a special significance enriching local history and providing an informal means of future protection. The Civic Trust is well known for making local, regional and national awards and we believe that good work should be recognised and commended appropriately. The Trust would encourage all residents of Carlisle and visitors to engage with what is good about our locality and to find ways of reinforcing local distinctiveness and retaining what is good about where we live and work and how we can plan forward for the next 50 years to make it even better.