A photo of a polling station sign

Election Process Commences

Potential candidates for this year’s Knutsford Town Council elections have 19 days to complete their nomination papers and submit them to Cheshire East Council as the election process commences.

The formal notice of election for the five town council wards has been published today by Cheshire East Council and candidates have until 4pm on 4th April to get their papers in.  All 15 seats on the council are up for election with candidates able to stand in any one of the five electoral wards (Cross Town, Norbury Booths, St John’s Wood, Nether or Bexton and Town Centre). Each ward will elect three councillors.

Nomination papers can be obtained from the Electoral Commission website, or the Town Council offices. Candidates will need a proposer and seconder from the ward they are standing in and all nomination papers must be hand delivered to Cheshire East’s Sandbach office to the election staff.

On 5th April Cheshire East Council will publish the list of nominated candidates, where wards are contested (more than three people standing for election) a poll will then take place on 4th May.

Qualification to stand for election

To be eligible to stand for election, candidates need to:

  • be a registered elector in Knutsford OR
  • have lived in the town or within 4.8km for the last 12 months OR
  • have had Knutsford as their primary place of work OR
  • have occupied premises in Knutsford for the last 12 months.

There are also criteria which disqualify candidates from standing, such as being subject to bankruptcy restrictions, having been convicted of a criminal offence with a sentence of three or more months imprisonment within the last five years and having been convicted of certain sexual offences.

Full guidance on standing for election is available on the Electoral Commission website: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/candidate-or-agent/parish-council-elections-england

Town Mayor and Ian Cass of the Forum of Private Business

2023 Town Awards Shortlist Announced

The spotlight is being shone on Knutsford’s community heroes this month with the shortlist being announced for the 10th annual Knutsford Town Awards.

The awards, which are sponsored by the Forum of Private Business, recognise the work individuals, community groups and businesses undertake for the Knutsford community.

A special award ceremony is being hosted at Knutsford Little Theatre on Wednesday 15th March from 7pm as part of the Annual Town Meeting.  The event starts with a short talk from Knutsford and District Talking Newspaper about the work the group does to bring the Knutsford Guardian to the visually impaired of Knutsford and surrounding villages before featuring an open forum for residents to raise any issues they want to see discussed in the community.

Town Mayor, Cllr Mike Houghton and Ian Cass, Managing Director of the Forum of Private Business then have the honour of celebrating the shortlisted nominees and announcing the winners of the 2023 awards.

This year’s shortlist is as follows:

Civic Award (3 awards)

Three Civic Awards are presented to individuals who give their time voluntarily to undertake work in the community there are 7 shortlisted for the awards this year:

  • Judy Clifford
  • Joe Godden
  • Gemma Jackson
  • Rob Lyons
  • Ken and Louise Rhodes
  • Claire Sawyer

Business Award

One business will be recognised with the Business Award, which goes to a business or business leader who has supported or worked with the community, four businesses are in the running for the 2023 award:

  • Detaljer
  • Dan Belcher, Guys Barbers Knutsford
  • Morgan Edwards
  • Tatton Perk

Community Award

The Community Award goes to a community organisation, this year three worthy groups have been shortlisted:

  • Knutsford and District Talking Newspaper
  • The Welcome
  • Wrap up Knutsford

 Extra Mile Award

The Extra Mile Award is presented to someone who as part of their paid job is going above and beyond to the benefit of the community. This year sees three shortlisted nominees:

  • Alison Hooper, Egerton Primary School
  • Jack Street, Johnsons the Cleaners
  • Miriam Wilson, Knutsford Medical Partnership

On announcing the shortlist, Cllr Mike Houghton said: “I know we say this every year but everyone on the shortlist should be incredibly proud that someone has taken the time to put their name forward for recognition for what they do for Knutsford and I am really looking forward to celebrating their achievements with them at the awards ceremony later this month”

A map of Knutsford showing the five town wards

Changes to Town Council wards

New community governance arrangements affecting Knutsford come into effect this April, following conclusion of a community governance review across Cheshire East.

The review, which looked at governance arrangements for town and parish councils across the borough, addresses the concerns first raised by Knutsford Town Council in 2017 when it pushed for a review to be commenced.

The boundary of Knutsford is being expanded to the west to include the Tabley Park development, part of which is currently in Tabley parish. The new boundary follows Northwich Road to the M6 and back along Tabley Hill Lane. The town’s eastern boundary was also changed to include part of the Longridge Business Park which was technically within Mobberley parish.

The other major change is redrawing the internal ward boundaries – Knutsford’s 15 town councillors will now be elected across five three-member wards rather than the current four. This addresses issues which will be created by new developments which would have affected the ratio of electors to councillors in existing wards and seen some estates split between different wards. The changes split the existing Over ward, which elected six councillors, into two three-member wards, providing a stronger link between councillors and residents.

All ward boundaries have been affected. The new wards are:

  • Nether
  • Bexton and Town Centre
  • Crosstown
  • St John’s Wood
  • Norbury Booths
A map of Knutsford showing the five town wards
A map showing the new boundary of Knutsford (edged red) and the five wards

Nether ward has moved north to include the Tabley Park development as well as the Bluebell Village and smaller development planned for the site west of Manchester Road. The town centre has moved into the new Bexton and Town Centre ward whilst Norbury Booths ward has expanded west to include all houses along Bexton Lane. Over ward has been split in two, creating a new Cross Town ward, centred around Thorneyholme Drive, and St John’s Wood, which contains the ancient woodland, Longridge and Shaw Heath areas as well as the new development on Parkgate Lane and potential development on Longridge. 

The new governance arrangements will be used in the May elections. No changes have been made to the Cheshire East Council wards.

In surrounding parishes, the area of Tatton Park which is not in Knutsford parish moves into a newly merged parish of Millington and Rostherne whilst there have been no changes at Mere; Plumley with Toft and Bexton; or Ollerton with Marthall and the only change at Tabley is the transfer of land to Knutsford.

This year’s elections will also see some changes to polling stations and residents will have recently received letters from Cheshire East Council; polling cards will be issued for elections detailing the polling station for each polling district in Knutsford. Voting in elections from May 2023 requires photo ID for the first time. If you do not have photographic ID, you can apply for a free voter authority certificate from Cheshire East Council at: https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-photo-id-voter-authority-certificate

Cllr Mike Houghton stands by a bin branded as Knutsford Town Council's against a green leafy background

Community meeting on new council plan

Residents are invited to find out more about the Town Council’s draft strategic plan at a community meeting next week.

The council is currently consulting on its new strategy which will guide its work over the next ten years. The plan sets out five core aims of supporting the town centre, promoting active travel and public transport, improving open spaces and the environment, leading a strong community and ensuring access to services and facilities.

The public meeting takes place at 7pm on Wednesday 22nd February in Knutsford Methodist Church, where attendees will hear how the plan was developed and find out more about the council’s objectives for the next decade. The meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to question the council on the plan and provide feedback on the specific actions people would like to see the council deliver by 2032.

“We’re setting out a strategy to guide what we do over the next 10 years and provide a marker for the community to assess how well we are doing. We’re keen to hear from as many local residents, businesses and other stakeholders to ensure we are setting the right objectives for the town” said Town Clerk Adam Keppel-Green.

Those who cannot attend the meeting can read the plan online at www.knutsfordtowncouncil.gov.uk/strategic plan or in Knutsford Library, The Welcome and the Market Hall.

Town Mayor Mike Houghton outside the Stanley Centre

Council urges Stanley Centre closure to be abandoned

Knutsford Town Council is calling on Cheshire East Council to abandon plans to decommission the Stanley Centre in Knutsford.

The proposal to close the building which provides services for people who have a learning disability, people with physical disabilities and older people was included as part of the Cheshire East Council budget consultation and has drawn criticism from the borough council’s own Adults and Health Committee.

The Town Council has today issued a letter to the leadership at Cheshire East Council requesting the proposed cut is removed from the budget. The Town Council has further requested that if the borough council wishes to explore the building’s closure a thorough consultation must be undertaken before a decision to cut the funding is made.

“With the continually growing need for local social care provision, we are bemused by this ill thought out proposal to cut access to the vital services provided at the Stanley Centre.” said Town Mayor Cllr Mike Houghton

“We are especially concerned that the proposal has been presented through a budget consultation as a cost saving measure rather than a properly formulated proposal that enables a detailed assessment of the impact of the closure of the building on the local community”

Cllr Mike Houghton outside the Council Offices

Consultation launched on council’s strategic plan

A consultation has been launched on Knutsford Town Council’s draft strategy for the next ten years.

The strategic plan was developed following community consultation in Summer 2022, when the Town Council held a series of workshops and an online survey to hear from residents what they wanted to see the council address in the coming years.

The plan is an overarching strategy and intentionally doesn’t detail the solutions. It details the council’s core aims and objectives – how the council delivers on this will be set out as it progresses through the next decade.

The five strategic aims set out by the council are:

  • Supporting a thriving Town Centre
  • Promoting Active Travel
  • Leading a Strong Community
  • Improving Open Spaces and the Environment
  • Ensuring access to services and facilities

The aims are what the council will work towards in the long term and each is supported by a series of objectives which sets out how they will make these aims a reality. Each year the council will  produce specific action plans detailing what it will be doing to meet our objectives.

“This plan was built on the back of what we were told in our community engagement sessions last year and aims to ensure the council is addressing the needs and ambitions of the community” said Town Mayor, Cllr Mike Houghton. 

“Before the plan is adopted, we want to ensure it has your support. We want to hear from you again to tell us if you agree with our aims and objectives and to suggest what specific actions you believe the council should be undertaking to deliver them.”

The consultation runs until Friday 3rd March. The Town Council will then review all feedback and present a revised plan for adoption to the new council following the May 2023 elections.

The plan can be read online at www.knutsfordtowncouncil.gov.uk/strategicplan and feedback provided by the accompanying feedback form. Comments can also be submitted by email to strategicplan@knutsfordtowncouncil.gov.uk. Paper copies of the plan and questionnaire can be found in Knutsford Library, The Welcome and Knutsford Market Hall. 

The council is also hosting an open forum on the strategy at 7pm on Wednesday 22nd February in Knutsford Methodist Church. At the meeting the council will talk through the development of the plan and answer any questions from the community.

Town Mayor stands outside Evuna, wearing the Mayor's Chain

Town Mayor invites town to dinner

Mayor of Knutsford Cllr Mike Houghton is inviting the town to dinner with his next fundraising event – an evening of tapas and paella.

The latest ‘Dine with the Mayor’ will take place on the evening of Thursday 9th February and is hosted by Evuna. Tickets are just £31 per person and all profits from the evening will go to the Mayor’s chosen Charities: Knutsford Scouts and UK Men’s Shed. 

Opening sales for the event, Mike said ‘I do hope you will be able to join me for this fundraising event.  There will be delicious food, great company, and a chance to win prizes in the fundraising raffle!”

The dinner follows the Mayor’s Annual Pub Quiz which is taking place at The Angel on the 2nd February which is now sold out. If you’ve missed out on the quiz, get in early for the Town Mayor’s Music quiz on Friday 10th March.

Tickets for these events can be booked by emailing laura.phillipson@knutsfordtowncouncil.gov.uk or calling 01565 653 929.

A black and white photo of the Edward VII Coronation bonfire in Knutsford

From the archives: A Coronation Bonfire

The Town Council holds an archive of documents containing a wealth of local history and, thanks to the work of two dedicated volunteers, the archives are being sorted and catalogued for the first time.

Jenny and Mary attend the council offices each week to sift and sort the various files and we are keen to share the information they unearth. This article was prepared by them for the Friends of Knutsford Heritage Centre newsletter when they found an old photo showing men on a stack of hay?

When King Edward VII ascended to the throne after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 towns and villages began planning extravagant celebrations for his coronation, which was planned for June 1902.

Many towns, including Knutsford, built large bonfires. This photo (which has been skilfully enhanced by Peter Spooner) shows the bonfire on the heath. The men standing on each tier are allegedly the town councillors of the time. You can clearly see a small silver crown near the top and the initials ER.

A black and white photo of the Edward VII Coronation bonfire in Knutsford

Knutsford’s bonfire and celebrations are mentioned in George Payne’s ‘A History of Knutsford’, published in 1904:

“On June 26, 1902, the loyal people of Knutsford, besides having a bonfire which measured 52 yards in circumference and was 44 feet high to the floor of the cabin placed on the top, which was itself 10 feet high, had what was quite appropriate, a sanding competition, in which twenty three cottages and tradespeople entered. Most beautiful and artistic designs adorned the street and pavements in front if the houses, and a number of prizes were awarded, the judges touring the ancient streets in a motor car.”

It was also mentioned in other publications, including the Dundee Evening Post, July 1902, which described different bonfires around the realm, accompanied by this illustration and description: “Of quite a different shape was the bonfire at Knutsford, containing 100 loads of stuff. At the base it was 16 yards in diameter, and the blazing properties were heightened by the addition of many barrels of tar.”

The coronation day was set for 26th June 1902 and guests were invited from all over the world. However, the King suffered appendicitis a few days beforehand and developed peritonitis: unless he postponed the
coronation and had an operation immediately he would die. The King, though hugely reluctant, finally relented, and 9th August was chosen as the new date. By then he was much recovered and the service proceeded as planned.

The society magazine “The Queen’ reported at length on regional coronation festivities and in the issue
published a week before the delayed coronation in August, Knutsford gets a special mention:

“There will, no doubt, be many places which will repeat the note of joyousness sounded for June 26 last, when Aug. 9 brings, as we all devoutly hope it may bring, the ceremony that was then postponed. Flags are a possession that can be hung at any moment, and bonfires can be reconstructed, but they will not be either the flags or the bonfires that were prepared when the nation was at the height of loyal expectation.

The little Cheshire town of Knutsford was no whit behind others in its demonstrations of joy; all the customary preparations had been made to honour the King, and another form of decoration, which unfortunately does not show in the photographs, was employed to adorn the pavements of the street. This is the old custom of “sanding”; all the shopkeepers ornament the stone pavement in front of their shops with arabesques, crowns, mottoes, etc. in sand. It is done by putting the sand into a funnel and letting it out in a fine stream, rather in the manner in which a cook ices a cake. The skill that some of them attain is wonderful.

I do not know if the gentle ladies [of Cranford] ever went to any such exciting thing as a bonfire; I imagine they would have thought it slightly improper, but if ever there had been a festivity of that description in their days, certainly Peter, the wicked Peter, who owned to having shot a Cherubim, would have assisted at its making. The photograph somewhat spoilt by the iron railings shows how the bonfire looked the day before the expected Coronation; afterwards, when we lit our bonfires in gratitude that the King was out of danger, this one burnt beautifully, though it canted over in a wonderful way before it was finished, immaculate as it looks here in its resemblance to a gigantic cake.”

60 King Street with Bunting

Council to consider the sale of 60 King Street

At its January 9th meeting, the Town Council will consider a recommendation from its Assets and Operations Committee that the freehold for 60 King Street be put on the market.

The property was tenanted until 2019 when, due to insolvency of the tenant the lease was forfeit. Attempts to secure a new commercial tenant were unsuccessful due to the scale of the building and the renovation works that are required to launch a new business from the premises. This has been compounded by the unprecedented economic climate the UK has faced since COVID and prospective tenants have stated that they would not be willing to invest the sums required in a building for which they only hold a lease.

Over the last 18 months, the Town Council has explored the option of seeking heritage lottery funding to renovate and re-imagine the building as a hybrid community/commercial space.  Consultation to support this was undertaken earlier this year and identified potential uses which would be supported by the community. However, moving this forward would now require significant expenditure to develop a comprehensive funding bid with no certainty that the funds would be secured. On balance, the committee felt continuing with this approach presented an unacceptable risk to public finances and that alternative means of providing the facilities and services the community needs would be more sustainable.

The Town Council has received a number of informal expressions of interest for acquiring the freehold over the past three years and local estate agents Savills have advised a guide price for a sale in the region of £1.1m. Should the council resolve to sell the building an agent will be appointed, and a competitive marketing process commenced to secure the best sale for Knutsford.

Town Mayor, Cllr Mike Houghton said “The recommendation from our Assets Committee will be debated by the whole council in January when a formal decision will be made. In the interim we welcome the views of our residents which can be submitted to the Town Clerk or to any councillors”

An old postcard view of Heathfield Square

Residents invited to inform conservation area review

Residents are invited to have their say on a review of two of the town’s conservation arears.

Conservation areas are designated places of ‘special architectural or historic interest where it is desirable to preserve and enhance the character and appearance’ and five of the 77 conservation areas in Cheshire East are in Knutsford: Cross Town (designated in 2006), Heathfield Square (2006), Legh Road (1976), Town Centre (1989) and St John’s (1994). Following the commitment made in the Knutsford Neighbourhood Plan, Knutsford Town Council is leading a review of the five conservation areas in the town.

A key part of conserving a conservation area is having an up-to-date appraisal and management plan which ensures their special qualities are understood and their character and appearance are not compromised by development proposals and small-scale incremental change.

Work on the Legh Road conservation area appraisal and management plan was completed in 2021 and is awaiting formal public consultation from Cheshire East Council.

The Town Council is currently working with Donald Insall Associates to undertake a review of the four remaining conservation areas, starting with Heathfield Square and St John’s.

The Heathfield Square conservation area was last appraised in 2006 when it was created, this small area comprises Knutsford’s first council houses, built as ‘homes for heroes’ after the first world war. The St John’s conservation area covers the Victorian housing along St John’s Road, St John’s Avenue and County Terrace, as well as some of the houses on Bexton Road. There is currently no appraisal or management plan for this conservation area.

Residents interested in these conservation areas are invited to share their views at engagement sessions taking place on Saturday 19th November at the Town Council Offices. Two drop-in sessions are running from 10:30-12:00 and 12:30-14:00.

Work on the Town Centre and Crosstown conservation areas will commence in early 2023.

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