Two men sign paperwork whilst smiling at the camera and sat at a table.

Council takes ownership of its offices

Knutsford Town Council has taken ownership of its Toft Road offices and the surrounding grounds.

The freehold of the Council Offices, along with its grounds and the library garden, have been gifted to Knutsford Town Council by Cheshire East Council as a community asset transfer. Negotiation between the councils has been ongoing for several years since Cheshire East Council formally approved the transfer in 2018. This is the fourth transfer from the borough council through its community asset transfer programme following public toilets (2013), the Market Hall (2014) and allotments (2015). The Tabley Hill chapel and cemetery and were also taken back under local management in 2016 and 2020 respectively although these had always been owned by the town council. 

The Grade II listed Council Offices was built in 1844 as the Prison Governor’s House and was acquired by the Knutsford Urban District Council for £1,000 in 1930 after the prison closed. Following local government reorganisation in 1974 the offices were transferred to Macclesfield Borough Council although the Town Council retained an office and use of the chamber. Since the 1970s the building has also housed a tourist information centre, the offices of the Knutsford Guardian and private businesses.

The Town Council sought the transfer to ensure it retained a long-term low-cost office within the centre of Knutsford. The transfer was subject to a covenant that the building forever be used for the benefit of the local community. Cheshire East Council required the town council to take ownership of the Library Gardens as part of the transfer for the whole site to be managed as one space.

The council’s intention is to undertake a renovation and modernisation of the building to provide improved office and community use accommodation. The council aims to install a lift to make the historic council chamber accessible for council meetings and to subsidise the building through letting office space to tenants. The improvements would expand the number of community organisations and public services which can use the building. A sub-committee of councillors will be exploring options and developing proposals for the council.

Cllr Peter Coan, Chairman of the council’s Assets and Operations Committee said “I am thrilled to see the Council Offices return to local ownership and look forward to developing an improvement scheme for both the grounds and building so they better serve the needs of our community” 

Pictured: Cllr Peter Coan and Cllr Stewart Gardiner sign the transfer documents.

‘Where Next’ for 60 King Street?

‘Where Next’ for 60 King Street is the question Knutsford Town Council is asking the local community as part of a consultation to inform how the iconic Grade II* listed building will be used in the future.

The building, also known as Kings Coffee House, was home to the Belle Epoque until 2019 and previous attempts to find a new tenant were unsuccessful. In 2021 the council changed approach and appointed heritage consultants to lead a major grant bid to secure funds to regenerate and reimagine the building.

Speaking in a video released to promote the consultation, Town Mayor Cllr Stewart Gardiner said “Our vision is for a hybrid community and commercial space that will serve the whole of Knutsford but ensure the building remains financially viable”

The council has developed a range of ideas as to how the building could be used in the future to both generate income to offset maintenance costs and deliver a direct community benefit as had originally been intended when the Kings Coffee House was opened by its creator Richard Harding Watt.

“To help us shape our plans we are holding an open consultation, because we want to know your views on how this space should be used in the future” Cllr Gardiner added.

The survey aims to ensure that the building responds to the needs of the Knutsford community by helping identify gaps in service and space provision within the town.

Aware that many residents will not be aware of the extent of the property, the council is opening the doors of the building and offering a series of guided tours on Saturday 23rd April to enable the community to see the whole building and grounds. Numbers on the tours are limited and pre-booking is required. Each tour will end with a group discussion on what they have seen and their initial thoughts on how the building could be best used.

The survey and booking form for the guided tours can be found at: www.knutsfordtowncouncil.gov.uk/60KS. Paper versions of the survey can be collected from Knutsford Library, Knutsford Market Hall and the Council Offices. Residents not on the internet can book a space on a tour by calling 01565 653 929.

To support the consultation, and for those unable to attend a tour, the council has released a short promotional video which features interior and exterior views of the building; the video can be viewed on the council website.

Paul Buttrick and the Town Mayor sit on a bench with a plaque

Town dedicates ‘Happy to Chat’ benches

A small scheme to help tackle loneliness has been introduced on benches across the town centre thanks to Knutsford Town Council and the Knutsford Lions.

A number of benches have been designated as ‘Happy to Chat’ benches where the presumption is that if someone is sat there, they would welcome strangers stopping by to say hello and engage in conversation.

Loneliness is one of the most significant health concerns facing the population and has been demonstrated to be as detrimental to health as smoking and worse than obesity. Loneliness is becoming an increasing problem for older people in particular with over half a million older people across the country going over five days without seeing or speaking to anyone and 40% of older people saying the television is their main company.

The benches provide an avenue for those would value additional social contact to subtly ask for help.

The idea for the scheme had been raised with the Town Council by a number of community groups and residents and was delivered in partnership with Knutsford Lions.  

Paul Buttrick, President of Knutsford Lions said “The chatty bench project was set by Mike Goldman of the Lions with Knutsford Town Council before COVID-19 struck. It is lovely for people to be able to sit in the sunshine and chat freely again after almost two years of the isolation”

Happy to Chat benches have been designated at the following locations:

  • Outside Ash Court, King Edward Road
  • Wallwood
  • Paradise Green, Bexton Road
  • St John’s Church Grounds
  • Toft Road outside St John’s Church
  • Courthouse Garden
  • Library Garden 
  • The Heath

Town Clerk, Adam Keppel-Green said “If you spot someone sat on our of the town’s new Happy to Chat benches, consider stopping a while to say hello – you don’t know the difference it may make to their day and their health”

Benches have been selected for the scheme where there is an alternative bench nearby for those who

prefer quiet bench reflection.

A group of people including the mayor gather around a tree that is being planted

Mayor plants tree for Platinum Jubilee

The 70th anniversary of the accession of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was marked in Knutsford on Sunday 5th February with the Town Mayor and councillors planting a commemorative tree at the Council Offices.

Town Mayor Cllr Stewart Gardiner was joined by councillors and residents at a small ceremony on the day marking 70 years since HM The Queen took the throne. This marked the first act ahead of the official celebrations in June.

The council chose a Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ tree to celebrate the occasion. The tree will blossom with clear pale primrose yellow, fragrant cup-shaped flowers between April and May each year – covering the period of HM The Queen’s birthday.

The national celebrations of the jubilee take place over a four-day bank holiday weekend from 2nd to 5th June. The Town Council is organising a beacon lighting as part of beacon lighting across the nation on Thursday 2nd June whilst Knutsford Lions will be hosting a Jubilee Fair on the Heath on Friday 3rd June.

The 2012 Diamond Jubilee saw a specially commissioned arch installed at the Library Gardens and for the Platinum Jubilee the council is discussing holding a competition for children to design a new piece of public art. The Town Mayor will also be offering to plant a jubilee tree at each school in Knutsford ahead of the half term break.

Peter Murray from POP with childrenat Knutsford Bunny Hop 2019

Bunny Hop Bouncing Back for ’22

The Knutsford Bunny Hop will be bouncing back to the Town Centre this Easter Saturday.

The event had a forced two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic but will return for the first time since 2019 on Saturday 16th April.

The family event features an easter themed trail where the objective is to find bunnies hidden across the town centre each of which have a letter pinned to them. Find all the letters which together spell a hidden phrase! You can then submit your completed entry form into the Bunny Hop postbox outside of Mr Simms Sweet Shop on King Street. You will also be able to enjoy other festivities on the day such as face painting and competitions.

The event is very kindly sponsored by Mere Day Nursery, who have supported the event for a number of years. Mere Day nursery is located on Chester Road just outside Knutsford in Mere where children can enjoy the baby room, toddler room or pre-school room and an outdoor space including trees, woodlands and regular access to acres of fields where the play opportunities are endless. 

Alex Brown, Events Officer at Knutsford Town Council, said: “We are thrilled to bring this event back after it has not been possible the last couple of years due to lockdown restrictions. It will be fantastic to celebrate Easter again with our community and we hope everyone comes out to enjoy the event!”

You will find lots of town centre businesses with ‘Bunny Hop Friendly Shop’ posters in their windows, which means the business are involved in the event by offering promotions or giveaways.

Keep up to date with event announcements and news by following Knutsford Bunny Hop on Facebook and Twitter, and by joining the official event on Facebook.

Enquiries related to this event can be sent to alex.brown@knutsfordtowncouncil.gov.uk or you can call 01565 653 929.

The Mayor and the Manager of the Angel

Mayor to host Pub Quiz

The Mayor of Knutsford is inviting residents to his fun pub quiz on February 23rd at The Angel on King Street. After 2 years of hosting Zoom quizzes, Cllr Gardiner will be the first Mayor since 2019 that has been able to hold the annual event in person and is encouraging all who are able to come along.

Cllr Gardiner is keen to welcome as many people as possible to get involved and especially those who were unable to celebrate Christmas with their colleagues. The Quiz presents the perfect opportunity for postponed get together while raising some much-needed funds for the Royal British Legion and St Vincent de Paul Society.

Cllr Gardiner said: “ Are you an ace at The Chase, sharper than a celebrity on pointless or quicker on the buzzer than a student on University Challenge? Then why not put your brain to the test and bring a team along to the Annual Town Mayor’s Quiz and see if you can outsmart this year’s quiz master?!’

The quiz, which has been written by the Mayor’s Consort, Simon Hutchence, will take place at 7.30pm. Teams are £10 for a team of 4 which supports the mayor’s chosen charities.  Extra participants can pay £2.50 per person, but teams will be capped at six people.

To register your team contact Michelle Bate on Michelle.Bate@knutsfordtowncouncil.gov.uk with the details of your team – including a team name and the names of all participants.

The Town Mayor wears a santa hat and mayoral chain in front of a group of local traders

It’s a wrap on town centre Christmas countdown

Counting down to Christmas this year was a special virtual advent calendar featuring an assortment of local independent businesses.

The shop local advent calendar was published daily on the Town Council’s social media with each video promoting what you can find in Knutsford Town Centre, from the latest children’s toys at Hal Whittaker to Georg Jensen champagne coolers from Serenity Designs. Each video aimed to put on display what shoppers can find in the shops on their doorstep and encourage people to think local first.

Speaking in the final video, released on Christmas Eve, Mayor of Knutsford Cllr Stewart Gardiner thanked the town for supporting local businesses He said “We have a fantastic group of independent traders here in Knutsford who give the town its character; thank you for supporting them through the pandemic, throughout 2021 and we all hope you continue to shop here in knutsford in 2022”

The campaign was one of a number of initiatives developed by outgoing Town Centre and Marketing Officer, Sandra Curties, as part of the Town Council’s commitment to supporting the town centre and local business. The council is currently recruiting for a new Town Centre and Marketing Officer, so if you have ideas you think could help drive footfall to Knutsford why not apply for the role.

Here’s the final video, view the rest on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Whips in plastic tubes in the foreground

800 whips planted on open spaces in December

Eight hundred whips were planted in Knutsford this month as part of the Town Council’s nature action plan which aims to improve Knutsford for wildlife and tackle climate change.

On Saturday 4th December volunteers from the Town Amongst Trees project planted 500 whips at two open spaces on Ashworth Park. The whips were planted in the borders of the sites and will develop into mixed native copses. The planting day coordinated by the council’s Planning and Facilities Officer, Bob Allen, who leads on the implementation of the plan. The volunteers spent hours in the rain getting the whips in the ground in National Tree Week and were supported by local residents supplying warming tea and fresh cake!

Bob Allen sorting whips
Planning and Facilities Officer Bob Allen

Later in the month Town Ranger Bob Garner planted a new native hedge of 300 whips around an open space on Manor Crescent. The new hedge at the green next to the 2nd Knutsford Scout Hut, will develop into a native hedgerow. Hedgerows provide shelter, nesting opportunities and food for birds and an assortment of invertebrates and once established the fence surrounding the green will be removed.

The whips were provided free of charge by the Woodland Trust and The Conservation Volunteers.

In early 2022 the Town Council will be planting a further 120 trees on open spaces across the town as part of its mission to greatly increase tree cover in the town and, with funding from Redrow, is supporting the creation of a community wildflower allotment.

“Since adopting our Nature Action Plan in 2020 we have created new wildflower meadows, planted hundreds of trees and in spring will see thousands of bulbs flower thanks to efforts from volunteers across the community” said Town Clerk, Adam Keppel-Green. “We’ve more work to do in 2022, but Knutsford is well on its way to being a great example of how towns can provide for wildlife across their open spaces”.

The Mayor stands with the winners of a competition

Christmas Window Competition Winners

Town Mayor, Cllr Stewart Gardiner and Managing Director of Knutsford based Forum of Private Business, Ian Cass, toured the town centre to judge the efforts of local businesses in the annual Knutsford Christmas Window Competition.

Each year the standard of the Christmas Window displays continues to get higher and higher. All the town centre window displays were viewed as part of the competition and we had formal entries from a large range of retailers and businesses including; Detaljer, Diamond Nails, Savills, Cheshire Quality, Arthur Lee, The White Orchid, Dafferns, Mr Simms and Clare and Illingworth.

The overall winner was presented with a trophy and certificate with highly commended certificates going to the runners up.

This year the winner was Terence Paul with Holly Johnson in second place and Nicholas Austen’s display at 60 King Street taking 3rd place.  There was also a prize for the best dressed Charity Shop window, and this was won by Barnardo’s on Tatton Street. A new category for 2021 was ‘best small window’ and with the inaugural winner Kanoa Living on Princess Street

Cllr Stewart Gardiner said, “I was impressed at both the innovation and sense of style even more this year. Everybody should be really proud of the displays they created in making the town look even more festive. Picking the winner was really difficult and there were several shop fronts being in running for the top slot. Unfortunately, there could be only one winner – Terence Paul who used a  local street artist to create an impressive piece of ‘snow graffiti’ display this year.

The Town Mayor adds the letters to the screening notice at the cinema

Over £300 raised at cinema night

The Mayor of Knutsford’s Charity Screening of Bridget Jones’s Diary was a fantastic success raising over £300 for the Mayor’s chosen charities, The Knutsford Branch of the Royal British Legion and The Knutsford Branch of The St Vincent de Paul Society.

The event, which took place on Wednesday 8th December, was hosted by the Curzon Knutsford and attended by 33 guests who were treated to an exclusive screening with wine and popcorn. The winners of the raffle prizes went home with goodies including an M&S Voucher, Wine, Chocolates and a Monet Bracelet.

Town Mayor, Cllr Stewart Gardiner said “from the raucous laughter of the audience, I clearly picked a winner when choosing to host the screening of Bridget Jones’ Diary. The seasonal ending added to the atmosphere of the experience. Thank you to all that supported the evening. We are hoping to reprise the experience in the spring”.

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