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Planning Matters.

Some recent issues from the Planning Committee of Shrewsbury Civic Society. October/November 2016. Mike Carter.

1. There is an application to turn Shrewsbury’s Rail Station information hall into a Costa coffee shop. The Civic Society regrets the loss of an information point, thinks this is a reasonable place for a coffee shop but objects to any siting of tables and advertising outside on the forecourt.

2. Beechwood House on Town Walls is a large building stretching back to Belmont Bank. The application for this is welcomed since much of it has been unused and looks unkempt. The Society is keen to see a high quality renovation used as houses and apartments.

3. Manser’s Antiques have been housed in a distinctive and prominent building near the English Bridge. There is an application for the change of use of the building to a vets/animal hospital. The details suggest little amendment to the building’s exterior. However, we feel that the elevations should not be affected by any changes and should remain looking true to its original design. Conservation Planning Officers have identified the cautions needed.

4. Shrewsbury’s Copthorne Barracks have been in the news as an application to turn the site into a “village style” housing estate is contentious. The current application is for Outline Planning consent and does not show the quality of the proposed buildings. (We understand that the government has ruled that redundant MOD land must be used for housing.) The Society has concerns for the lost opportunity for a mixed development that could encourage much needed businesses/employment but also about the proposed high density and loss of sufficient open space. If there is to be housing here, we would encourage maximising the use of the current buildings and leaving more open space (especially the whole parade square). There should be a high quality design and a condition that ensures a full contribution to infrastructure, eg to ameliorate traffic issues and to provide school places.

5. Shrewsbury’s Dana Prison is now the subject of a detailed application. The Civic Society is generally delighted to see a feasible plan for the use and regeneration of the site. Our previous comments have welcomed the imaginative ideas although there were some doubts about traffic and parking issues. These concerns (and others) are being discussed and may lead to amendments to the application.

6. The Stew still stands unloved. An Appeal established that the building may not be demolished but it is in urgent need of repair. An agreement was reached about this last January but never acted on. We are told a new initiative is underway. Meanwhile, knowing its heritage significance, the Civic Society has applied for the building to be listed but we remain extremely concerned.

7. A planning application for developments at the Ditherington Flaxmill has now been made. The Society is delighted to see some progress on this extremely long-running and difficult project. We were invited to view the plans before application and felt that the windows should remain authentic to the original design rather than to those of its later uses. It has now been passed but not using our suggestion .

8. We are pleased to hear that the ivy that was covering the Listed Dovecot to the rear of the Tudor Whitehall has now been removed. The Society had discussed this with the Council. We are seeking to identify other buildings whose current condition mars the town’s built environment.

9. Shrewsbury Civic Society Planning Committee occasionally welcomes colleagues from other Shropshire Civic Societies for meetings with senior staff of Shropshire Planning Authority. These meetings share common concerns and enable updates of the County and National context of planning legislation and the implications for Shropshire’s supply of housing land.

10. There are other ways in which the Society tries to encourage conservation of the best of Shrewsbury’s built heritage and tries to promote the best quality designs for developments. For example, the outcomes of the Awards Scheme are explained elsewhere. (See the November 2016 newsletter.)

Halloween Horrorfest from October 16th at Bear Steps Art Gallery

Gallery manager Dave Lupine talks to talented young artist Alberto Pitalua ahead of Horrorfest 2016.


The original Halloween Horrorfest started in 2013 as a collaborative exhibition of only 3 artists; myself, my Belarusian wife Yuliya and Whitchurch based metal-work artist Lee Smith, and it was held in the small Link Room gallery upstairs at Bear Steps. The following two years we raised the bar each time, with 2014’s being held in the main hall and incorporating seven exhibitors and 2015’s utilising all three galleries and including a myriad of styles and mediums with work from sixteen contributors. Horrorfest 2015 proved to be a very popular exhibition, attracting vast numbers of visitors from far and wide and becoming the most financially successful exhibition of the year for Bear Steps. One of the principal ingredients for this surprising, but very welcome, success was the inclusion of Spanish artist Alberto Pitalua who exhibited his artwork for the very first time and sold virtually all of it during the Horrorfest’s two week run.

Language teacher Alberto originates from Malaga, but moved to Shrewsbury two years ago. He was a late addition to last year’s Horrorfest, contacting me only a few weeks before it began about the possibility of exhibiting at Bear Steps at some point, and the moment I saw his artwork I knew I had to grab him to join the show. In preparation for the Halloween Horrorfest 2016 I interviewed Alberto to discover a bit more about this quiet, charming and incredibly talented young artist.

D.L: Hi Alberto, good to see you. So when did you first develop a passion for art?

A.P: Hi Dave, good to see you too. Well I remember spending a lot of time drawing in my room when I was very young. My parents bought me some art books that I used to read for hours and then copy the paintings and illustrations.

As a rather shy boy I preferred to be on my own, immersing myself in my inner-world and developing my artistic skills.

D.L: You decided not to pursue a career in art though?

A.P: Well when I grew older I became more interested in exploring the world around me, travelling. Meeting people, learning new languages. Foreign languages was another passion of mine, and as there was no art school in my home town and, to be honest, art isn’t regarded as a realistic way of making enough money to earn a life, I decided to  study foreign languages at university to become a language teacher. However, I never lost my interest for art and kept painting and drawing as much as possible and whilst working as a teacher I attended several art courses and workshops and met some artists who encouraged me to continue developing my skills.

D.L: So when did you first make the conscious decision you to wanted to exhibit your works to the general public?

A.P: Well two years ago I moved to Shrewsbury, it was then I felt more confident and decided it was the right time to exhibit my work. I contacted different galleries and that was how I met you and you suggested I take part in the Halloween and Christmas shows you were curating in 2015. I will always be so grateful for the support that you, Yuliya and the Shrewsbury Civic Society gave me to start exhibiting my works. I feel as if I were a spoilt child because you have all been so generous to me and I felt such a warm welcome from the very beginning. To be honest, it has been very special to me to start this journey here at Bear Steps, at this amazing building with such nice location, and I have been very lucky to have the help and support of such friendly and inspiring people.

D.L: What does the Bear Steps Halloween Horrorfest mean to you personally?

A.P: The Halloween 2015 show was fantastic. Apart from the success I will remember it as a great experience, I learned a lot and met new people, that is the most important part to me. Obviously it was great to sell so many works (we all have to pay bills and art supplies are quite expensive) but it gave me so much encouragement to continue exhibiting my work.

I am really excited to take part in the Halloween show again this year, where I will exhibit five of my new works. These are mostly portraits where I explore the dark side of love and sexuality, focusing on concepts such as desire, the passing of time, self-destruction and revenge. It’s gong to be great to exhibit together with other artists, some of them good friends, see the people’s reaction and hear their feedback. I’m hugely looking forward to it.

D.L: 2016 has been a very busy year for you on the artistic front, amongst various other shows across the county you had your first solo show with us at Bear Steps. Can you tell me a little about that?

A.P: Yes, in May I had my first solo show, ”Reinventing the Impossible” at Bear Steps. It was a journey to celebrate freedom and the power of imagination. I created a main character, ”Madame Incredula”, who appeared in three works, a veiled woman that personifies emotional weakness, who is too afraid to follow her dreams and even abandons the possibility of love. The viewers could accompany her in a journey among her dreams and nightmares to discover a new universe where everything is possible and everyone can find their own freedom. The most important message that I wanted to convey was that it is never too late to reinvent yourself and do what you want to do, to be brave enough to be what you want to be.

D.L: How would you describe your work and particular style?

A.P: Surrealism is the style I identify most with. However, I consider myself to be a very curious person who likes to try new things so I am sure I will develop my style over the coming years and make sure it is as varied as possible. I don’t like to simply repeat the same things over and over, without challenging myself. I need to get stimulated by new ideas and approaches, but always maintain the same core essence and personality. My works are full of symbolism, there is always a narrative involved, they are a puzzle, an enigma, that needs to be solved by the viewer, with as many possible interpretations as varied as their own personal backgrounds and circumstances.

D.L: Who and what do you consider your primary influences?

A.P: I get inspired by lots of things every day. Life is my inspiration, especially travelling, fashion, music, cinema, literature…I especially like artists such as Salvador Dali, Hyeronimus Bosch, Egon Schiele, Rene Magritte…and contemporary ones like Vladimir Kush, Sergey Tyukanov and Andy Kehoe. My works are also influenced by writers, such as Edgar Allan Poe, H. P Lovecraft and Stephen King, and by movies such those created by Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro and Alfred Hitchcock. Shrewsbury has been a great source of inspiration for me, its architecture, its gardens, the people I have met here, in general its atmosphere has influenced my work a lot. It’s an inspiring town, full

of history and charm, and it is impossible not to fall in love with it. I feel very lucky to be living and working here, the only downside is the weather, which I will never get used to, it’s especially difficult for someone coming from the south of Spain.

D.L: Can you tell me a little more about the creative process?

A.P: I have to say I am fascinated by this and how different artists approach their work in different ways. Inspiration usually come to me at night, just before gong to bed when I take some time to sketch new ideas, but I must confess that I am a day person, so I am more active during the day when I do most of my painting and experimentation. Sometimes it’s just an idea, a concept which needs to be developed through lots of sketching and thinking, but other times it’s such a clear vision that only needs to be directly transferred onto paper or canvas. Sometimes it takes just a few hours to create something, sometimes it takes months or even years to finish a piece. Sometimes it can be frustrating, especially when you don’t get the results that you are striving for, but in general I consider art as therapy. It helps me to escape from the pressures of everyday life and discover and understand parts of me that I didn’t previously know. It is an amazing journey which enables me to share my imaginary worlds with others and to connect with people on a much deeper level than I would otherwise get through casual conversation.

D.L: So, after Halloween Horrorfest 2016, what does the immediate future hold in store for Alberto Pitalua?

A.P: Well I am going to take part in Chester Arts Fair at the end of November, I would like to definitely continue exhibiting in Shrewsbury and maybe I might start a project I have had in my mind for several years: to illustrate a story I wrote some years ago and finally decide to publish it sometime next year. I am very excited about the future. I am very passionate about everything that I am doing at the moment and I hope I can have more opportunities to develop my style and artistic career in the future.

D.L: Well thank you for the interview Alberto, let’s hope the Halloween show is as well received and successful as it was last year, and all the best for your success and future projects.

A.P: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure. I’m so happy for the opportunities you have given me and I’m sure the Halloween Horrorfest will run for many years to come and produce lots of exciting new talent for the future.

The 4th incarnation of the Halloween Horrorfest will be on at Bear Steps Art Gallery from Sunday October 16th until Saturday October 29th, and with this year’s featuring macabre masterpieces by 20+ artists it shapes up to be the biggest one yet.



Harriet Devlin Talk at Bear Steps Thursday 20th October


The Next Forum Meeting – Thursday 20th October at Bear Steps

The next SCS Forum Meeting features Harriet Devlin MBE as the speaker and will include an opportunity for questions about planning matters in Shrewsbury.

Harriet runs a Masters Course on Conservation Planning in Birmingham and lives in an early renovated timber framed house in Cressage. Her talk will focus on the trials and glories of timber framed historic buildings.

Date: Thurs 20th October Time; 7.00pm, Venue: Bear Steps Gallery. Title ‘Conservation creates Consternation – Saving old buildings’.

Brick Detective Unearths Clues to the Past

Over 40 Civic Society members took part in the eagerly-awaited brick walk through the streets of Shrewsbury last night (8th September) where the last itinerant brickmaker in the country, Tony Mugridge once again demonstrated his sleuth-like skills in unearthing the finest historic details from the local brickwork.

See full report in September’s newsletter. Meanwhile take a look at Bill Tomaszewski’s images from the evening.





The Brick Detective Event this Thursday 8th September

Tony Mugridge at his best Tony Mugridge brick walk

Artist Rebecca Rea Exhibition at the Bear Steps Gallery August 7-20th 2016

A riot of colour introduces new artist to Shrewsbury
Expression is healing is the message Rebecca Rea wants visitors to her first exhibition to take away with them. The exhibition entitled Emergence will be held at the Bear Steps Gallery in Shrewsbury from August 7th-20th.

Exploring a range of emotions and experiences Rebecca uses expressive and highly colourful Acrylic painting in what she says is a process of emerging creativity through which she explores aspects of her own experience and wider themes that will touch viewers.

Combining different approaches to expression with many years’ experience as a healer and therapist, Rebecca also offers individual and group sessions for people interested in self development, overcoming barriers to self fulfilment and who wish to meet like minded people.

“Whether you see yourself as a complete no hoper as a creative person, or have experience, finding a way to express your inner creative spirit can be very healing and liberating”, says Rebecca, who moved to Shrewsbury this year.

For further information contact Rebecca via her website www.experimentinbeing.com or Facebook page @expressionishealing

Opening Hours:  10am-4pm Mon-Sun

Bear Steps Gallery

St Alkmonds Square, Shrewsbury SY1 1UHhttps://www.experimentinbeing.com

colour of tears_Rebecca Rea

colour of tears_Rebecca Rea

Gaia dreaming_Rebeca Rea

Gaia dreaming_Rebeca Rea

Spirit Sister_Rebecca Rea

Spirit Sister_Rebecca Rea


Volunteers needed as First World War Memorials Programme comes to the Bear Steps Shrewsbury

Daniel Kawczynski MP urges Shrewsbury residents to save local war memorials

The First World War Memorials Programme, launched by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014, is calling for people in Shropshire to join a new front line of volunteers.

With the help of Civic Voice, one of the four partner organisations running the programme, Shrewsbury Civic Society is hosting a workshop to encourage volunteers to record the condition of the area’s war memorials.

Funding is available for the repair and conservation of memorials, but help is needed to find them and record their condition first, using a simple survey. Commenting on the programme, Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, said: “The First World War Memorials Programme is a campaign I support whole heartedly. Civic Voice has done a great job at engaging the country in the programme and I encourage those in my constituency to get involved too. With the recent centenary commemorations of the Battle of the Somme there is no better time for the country to get involved and remember those who fell during the First World War.”

Martina Chamberlain of Shrewsbury Civic Society added: “If people from every area of the county were to undertake a simple survey of their local war memorial the result could be that all of Shropshire’s memorials could be in really good condition by 2018 when the commemoration of the end of the war takes place. We at Shrewsbury Civic Society are proud to be doing our bit.”

Come to the free workshop being held in Shrewsbury on Saturday July 23rd, 9.45am – 1.30pm, at Bear Steps, St. Alkmonds Place, Shrewsbury SY1 1UH. Reserve your free place by visiting www.civicvoice.org.uk/get-involved/events/ and following the links or contact info@civicvoice.org.uk or tel: 0151 707 4319.

Richard Bishop Photography

Shrewsbury Civic Society’s Martina Chamberlain with new recruit Daniel Daniel Kawczynski documenting one of Shropshire’s prominent war memorials in the Quarry.

National Civic Day

Shrewsbury Civic Society have enlisted the services of outstanding local journalist Phil Gillam to headline their celebration of National Civic Day.
He will be giving a talk at the Bear Steps entitled ‘Shrewsbury – My Kind of Town’.

A journalist for almost 40 years, Phil is a Shrewsbury Chronicle columnist and Editor of the renowned Belle Vue Magazine. He is also the author of several books
about Shrewsbury and Shropshire. His most recent book is a work of fiction, a gentle novel of family life entitled Shrewsbury Station Just After Six.
The book is available from Pengwern Books, Fish Street, Shrewsbury, and from Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery. You can email him at philoncloudbase@gmail.com  

If you can only get to the Bear Steps once on Saturday be there by 5pm. This is the one not to miss!

Click on this link (and the one that follows), to access the latest edition of the Belle Vue Magazine OPTIMISED ISSUE 5 BELLE VUE MAGAZINE (1)

RB National Civic Day

From the Chairman of Shrewsbury Civic Society Planning Committee.

About the Planning Committee

This committee is given its remit by the Society’s Trustees (the council of Management). It reviews the planning applications that Shropshire Council receives for Shrewsbury and comments where they are particularly positive or negative for the town.

SIZE The committee has 15 members that come from a range of professions connected with planning and the built environment, including 4 architects. It also has a good number who are not from such backgrounds but keen to see our heritage preserved and the town enhanced visually.

RANGE OF VIEWS   Members’ views can be very different about what looks good in the long run and how we can promote the town’s best interests. Consequently, after discussion, any opinions expressed are corporate and generally accepted by the committee members. The range of opinions represented on the committee, suggest a rounded base for decisions, which (hopefully) reflects the Civic Society’s broad membership.

WORK SPREAD This large committee is able to spread work round.  In fact, the committee has now extended its work and the Society has working groups considering issues such as traffic, the Society’s awards scheme, shop front guidance, and the continuing saga of ‘The Stew’. There are several other issues that, given capacity, the committee hopes to consider.  For example, it would be good if the Society could update overall long-term suggested plans for parts of the town (eg for the “West-end/Welsh bridge” area).

MEETINGS The committee meets monthly (usually on the last Monday of the month at 5.45pm at the Bear Steps) and is open for any Civic Society members to visit. It occasionally invites visitors such as developers to explain their proposals. Committee members also visit sites for which there are planning proposals and accept invitations to associated meetings. Sometimes, one or two committee members visit Westminster for Civic Voice All Party Parliamentary Group meetings.

FORUM Another activity is holding open Forum meetings. There are often one or two of these every three months and they are advertised to members and the public.  They try to combine a talk by an expert on a topical or interesting issue, (for example, conservation) with an open session for civic society members and the public to hear about some of the planning applications that the committee has considered.  There are always opportunities for questions and it is a good chance to raise an issue that otherwise may be ignored.

INVITATION We are always seeking to promote the Civic Society’s core aims and promote Shrewsbury’s best interests. If you are interested in any of the above work please contact the Society or the Planning Committee Chairman, via the email: info@shrewsburycivicsociety.co.uk


Bits from the Planning Committee     May 2016

NCP Car Park: The car park site at the bottom of Wyle Cop has been changed. Several months ago, a planning application was made to demolish the shabby buildings on the site including the frontage spanning the entrance. The Council and the Civic Society thought that it was important to retain the frontage that maintains a continuous streetscape. This has been done successfully.

Monkmoor Hangers:  Shropshire Council received an application to demolish several buildings here, including the front building occupied currently by Allied Carpets. The plan is to build housing to replace the several companies now using these large buildings. The Council is concerned and the Civic Society has objected. The building played a part in both world wars, their roofs are supported by rare Belfast trusses and the businesses currently provide a number of jobs. The Council has ordered a historical survey to ascertain the buildings’ degree of heritage significance. We await this.

Ashley’s Wine Bar: Because this Shoplatch building is listed and in a Conservation Area, planning permission is needed to extend hours of operation. The Civic Society had objected but permission is now granted for late night operation.

Whitehall stables:  Behind the Tudor Whitehall in Monkmoor Road, lies the hall’s stable block. Its roof, which has very rare Harnage stone tiles has now been repaired.  However, there is also an unusual, large dovecote, which is a listed building. This is covered in ivy and likely to be at risk. We now understand that the council’s conservation officer is discussing a repair programme.

Tannery Site: It is understood that the University is waiting to see the size of September’s student intake before deciding if any additional accommodation will be needed for September 2017. If so, it is likely to build just one of the planned blocks for which permission was so hastily granted. The somewhat superficial conditions attached to the planning permission have yet to be agreed.  The Civic Society greatly regrets this poor quality design for such a key position. This will only be made worse by drawn-out implementation.

The Stew: Those following the story of this building will know that demolition plans were thrown out at an Appeal last year. Since then there has been some internal clearing out and the owner has agreed to carry out some maintenance work with Shropshire Council. However, it is thought that repairs to prevent further water ingress have not been done. The Civic Society believes that the building needs more robust protection.

The All Party Parliamentary Group meeting run by Civic Voice:

Notes from key speakers at the APPG – Civic Voice, Westminster  27.01.2016

Deborah Lamb (Director of Engagement Historic England)(HE)

(NB English Heritage has been split up. ‘English Heritage’ now runs historic buildings, such as Haughmond Abbey, while ‘Historic England’ now advises government on planning matters.)

Quote:  “Civic Societies do the work that Councils don’t do often.”

Issues for Historic England amidst the context of pressures for growth and housing:

  1. There is still a temptation for many to see the planning system as a block to development.
  2. There is a danger of the erosion of local character and this is not dealt with well by the planning system.
  3. How can HE be more relevant – more people/help needed /greater awareness-raising.
  4. Public sector funding is diminishing so more private/voluntary collaborations are needed.
  5. More “infrastructure” and skills are needed for the support of heritage. HE’s advice is needed more but there is less training for such skills.
  6. HE is still making recommendations to Government and is the cutting edge on Heritage matters, developing the concept of heritage and seeking to increase public engagement and be more descriptive about England’s Heritage and how it should be valued.

Griff Rhys Jones made some impassioned points including;

  • his belief in the overall good impact of the planning system,
  • accepted the understanding of the need to “pull the levers”

eg HE Lottery Fund,

  • “talking about history is discussing the future”,
  • the importance of individualising High Streets,
  • the need to avoid “managed” environments                                                                                                               Mike Carter (SCS Planning Committee Chairman)