Road Widening - Rectory Road
Public Inquiry At Rushden
Proposed Widening of Rectory-Road - Strong Opposition By The Ratepayers’ Association.
Urban Council Majority V Minority - Lively Proceedings
An application having been made by the Rushden Urban Council to the Local Government Board for sanction to borrow £1,000 for the widening and improvement of Rectory-road, Mr. Edgar Dudley, F.S.I., an Inspector of the Local Government Board, held a public inquiry in the Council Chamber on Saturday afternoon.
The keenest interest was taken in the inquiry. Mr. C. Stimpson, barrister (instructed by Mr. C.R. Claridge, solicitor), attended to oppose the application on behalf of the Rushden Ratepayers Association. Among those present were the following members of the Rushden Urban Council :- Messrs. W. Bazeley, J.P. (chairman), J. Claridge, J.P., C.C., Fred Knight, J.P., F. Ballard, J.S. Clipson, T. Swindall, with Mr. G.S. Mason (clerk) and Mr. Madin (surveyor). There were also present the rector of Rushden (the Ven. Arthur Kitchin, R.D.), the Rev. W.F. Harris, Messrs. Arthur Wilmott and George Bayes (chairman and secretary of the Rushden Ratepayers’ Association), John Sargent, C.H. Blunson, J. Hornsby, W. Cure, Jos. Knight, W. Clarke, G. Selwood, T. Wilmott, C. Barker, G. Warner, John Wilmott, W.H. Darnell, A. Clayton, H.H. Hobbs, W. Packwood, C. Allen, J. Northern, J Litchfield, A. Allebone, T.W.C. Linnett, W. Wilmott, W. Desborough, Cox, J. Green, J. Noble, D. Nicholson, Jas. Sargent, S. Parker, W. Spencer, H. Perkins, Wildman, C. Wright, W. Smith, C. Mellor, Warner, F. James, J. Haseldine, A.H. Endersby, Wm. Chettle, G. Burfield, F. Maddams, G. Botterill, Linnett, W. Rands, F. Noble, and many others.
The Case For The Urban Council
Mr. G. S Mason said : The assessable value of the town is £33,954, and the outstanding loans £26,601 18s. 1d. A rate of a penny in the £ brings in about £140. The Rectory-road and the High-street are practically the only two thoroughfares leading from one end of the town to the other. High-street is generally very full of traffic, and it would, in the opinion of the Council, be a very great advantage to secure a second passage through the town. The local authority have for many years entertained the strong hope that they would be able to so widen the narrow road leading from the M. R. station to Newton-road as to make a street 36 feet throughout. The necessity for this has continually arisen before the Council, but for many reasons, principally financial, they have been unable to seriously entertain the idea of undertaking the work.
The Inspector : You say
Is that more favourable now?
Mr. Mason : No, but the Council fear the opportunity will be lost.
Mr. Chas. Barker : No, no !
The Inspector : Do not interrupt, please. You will have every opportunity of saying “No” later on.
Mr. Mason : In July last the Council received an intimation from the Co-operative Wholesale Society, who have a large factory at the junction of Portland-road and Rectory-road, that they were about to considerably extend the factory along the Rectory-road site. The Highways Committee of the Urban Council at once recognised that, if the C.W.S. were to build up to the Rectory-road, the opportunity of widening the street would be gone for ever, and they accordingly appointed a sub-committee to wait upon the directors of the C.W.S., with a view, if possible, of persuading them to set back the proposed new building so as to leave space for a 36 feet road at some future time not with a view of immediately undertaking the work, that was not the idea. This sub-committee met the directors of the C.W.S., who informed them that the only terms upon which they were prepared to set back their new buildings were that the Council should purchase from them the land and also acquire the property further on at the corner of Queen-street, now occupied by Mr. Betts, florist, and construct
A 36 Feet Road
from Portland-road to Queen-street. The C.W.S. asked £180 for the land they were to give up. The sub-committee went to the owner of the adjoining property (Mr. Ebenezer Claridge) to ask if he would be prepared to sell the house and shop and the cottages, and Mr. Claridge, through his solicitor, subsequently offered to sell the property for £720. The sub-committee reported the result of the interview to the Highways Committee, and they thought it was of such importance as to refer it to a committee of the whole Council. At a meeting of the Council in committee, the whole of the members being present, it was decided to ask the sub-committee to again approach the owners of the property and ask them to reconsider the price. The result of again approaching the owners was that the C.W.S. agreed, if the work were carried out, to contribute their proportion of the cost of making up the road, providing the other owners would to the same. Mr. Claridge, who is the other owner, absolutely declined to entertain the idea, and said the price put upon his property was the lowest he could accept.
The Inspector : Is the road repairable by the town?
Mr. Mason : Yes. It was unanimously resolved by the Council that if the C.W.S. would give the land, and the Local Government Board would sanction the loan, the work should be undertaken. The members were all satisfied that it was a desirable improvement, and that if those terms could be obtained the work should be done. The Council decided by
A Majority of One
to offer the C.W.S. £100 for the land. Twelve members were present, five voting for, four against, and three neutral. This recommendation of the whole Council in committee was adopted by the Council in the same proportion. One member who did not vote was Mr. Ballard, who is the local manager of the C.W.S. The C.W.S. agreed to sell for £100, and this was communicated to the Council at a special meeting on Nov. 25th, when the Council accepted the offer and also agreed to pay Mr. Claridge £720. The Council decided to apply to the Local Government Board for sanction to a loan. Both these resolutions were carried by six votes to five. Mr. Ballard being the member of the Council who did not vote. The Council were unanimously in favour of the improvement taking place providing the land could be given by the C.W.S. free of charge, and the only difference of opinion between the majority and the minority was whether that £100 should be paid or not. A provisional agreement has been entered into with Mr. Claridge for the sale of his property, and a draft agreement has also been settled between myself and the solicitors of the C.W.S. but the agreements are not yet sealed.
The Town Surveyor’s Evidence - How The Loan Is Made Up
The Surveyor, in the course of his evidence, said : The Rectory-road is about 14 or 15 feet wide. The loan is made up as follows :- C.W.S., 470 square yards of land, £100; Mr. E. Claridge, 344 square yards, £720; legal expenses, £30; works, £335; a total of £1,185. Against that there would be 170 square yards of surplus land and a cottage which could be altered for which we allow £185, leaving £1,000, the amount of the loan. The tender for the new property which the C.W.S. propose to put up is £8,150. The shop and house occupied by Mr. Betts are assessed at £20 and the actual rent is £42. The cottage is assessed at £10 and the weekly rent is 5/7. Mr. Madin then gave details of the proposed road-making.
Mr. Stimpson’s Cross-Examination
A Great Difficulty In Widening Rectory-Road Throughout
Mr. Stimpson (to Mr. Mason) : You said this was part of a scheme to widen Rectory-road from Newton-road to the M.R. station to relieve High-street?
Mr. Mason: I said it was always hoped to carry it out, but never seriously entertained.
Have you any idea of the cost? No.
But it would be a very serious one? Yes.
There would be other property to acquire which you would not get except by compulsory purchase? I do not know that we should want it.
You would have to acquire the land at the corner, a portion of the Rectory ground, and the whole of those cottages? If we took it that side, but there is an alternative.
There is the Salvation Army barracks and only the old footpath there? Yes.
At Beaconsfield-terrace there is only a foot path of four feet and the space belonging to private owners? Yes.
Could you get a 36 feet road there without pulling down the houses? I don’t know.
Mr. Stimpson: I don’t think you could this morning when I measured it. (Laughter.)
Mr. Mason: I can’t answer that: I have not measured it.
When you get by Beaconsfield-terrace you have only the old four-feet path, the land on either side belonging to the M.R. Co.? Yes.
Mr. Stimpson : So that this widening would serve no useful purpose except between Portland-road and Queen-street?
The Inspector : Is your objection because it is unnecessary?
Mr. Stimpson : Partly that and partly financial. (To Mr. Mason) : The C.W.S. will not give up that land for £100 apart from Mr. Claridge’s land being obtained?
Mr. Mason : That is so.
The Chairman of the Urban Council Strongly Supports the Scheme - A Present Source of Danger
Mr. Bazeley (the chairman of the Urban Council), addressing the Inspector, said : The Council were unanimously of opinion that this would be a public improvement, greatly needed, and that if this opportunity went by without getting the road the proper width then the Council would be very much to blame, and would be blamed by future generations if not exactly at the present time. We all know the great danger of the Rectory-road at present from a public standpoint. There is a lot of heavy traffic with a factory the size of that of the C.W.S. It is a source of absolute danger to the public when the trolleys are going to and from the factory, carting goods and raw material. Very often one can observe quite a block with the traffic because two vehicles cannot pass, and I have seen trolleys and other heavy vehicles that have had to back out again into Queen-street. Although the Council would not have gone on with this improvement at the present time unless circumstances had occurred which practically compelled them to do so, yet they have been of opinion for years past that Rectory-road should at some time be widened between Newton-road and the station. If a factory like this were erected up to the present building line it would be doing away with any opportunity of carrying out this improvement
In The Future
and that was the reason why the Council approached the question in the serious manner they have done. They have considered the question from all standpoints, and there are not two opinions on the Council as to the necessity, and it would have been unanimous if the C.W.S. had given the land instead of charging £100 for it. We are looking at it from a public standpoint, as a public improvement, and this is an occasion which should not be allowed to pass by.
The Inspector (to Mr. Bazeley) : What do you think of the likelihood of the improvement being continued to the Newton-road end and the M.R. station end?
Mr. Bazeley: I think it might be done in the near future, and at no extraordinary cost, either. There is no other valuable property to acquire.
The Inspector: It is curious to me that the £100 should make all the difference in this voting.
Mr. Bazeley: It is inexplicable to me. The members who voted in the minority have told me that if the C.W.S .had given the land there would have been no difficulty.
Mr. John Claridge Opposes The Application - An Inopportune Time
Mr. John Claridge, speaking for the minority of the Council, said: The £100 does not make all the difference. It is a matter of principle. We tried all we could to get the C.W.S. to give us the land. We felt they were putting up a large building of this kind, and it was greatly to their convenience and advantage, and we felt that if they would give us the land we would try and get this scheme through. As to the widening of the road being continued from Newton-road to the station, I think there is no probability of that for many, many years to come. With regard to this widening, we have felt it would be a great convenience to the public generally, but more particularly to the C.W.S. and it seems to me that the danger would be very much increased if that portion is widened, and the C.W.S. goods go into Queen-street and High-street, because Queen-street is very steep at the bottom and High-street is very narrow there. We have a scheme for widening High-street at the bottom of Queen-street, and that is of much greater importance, I think, than the widening of Rectory-road. When the traffic comes down Queen-street, which is a very steep street, into High-street, which is very narrow, it would be very dangerous to the public. I am sorry to oppose any improvement. It is the first time I have opposed any improvement, but the present time is not opportune.
amount to 8s. in the £, trade is very depressed, and many people cannot pay the rates. I have urged in the Council that we should consent to this improvement if the C.W.S. would set their buildings back, and in the course of a few years we could carry out this widening. At the present time we have a big loan for our water scheme. In three more years one of the loans will be wiped off. That would be the proper time to carry out this scheme. I ask you to withhold the loan at the present time until we have wiped off this other loan and until trade is better, and then we should sanction the carrying out of the scheme. I feel it my duty to oppose it at the present time.
The Inspector (to Mr. J. Claridge) : Suppose the C.W.S. put up their building to the present frontage, there would be no chance then of the improvement?
Mr. J. Claridge : Their plans do not show that.
The Inspector : If this scheme is not carried out, I take it that the present plans may be withdrawn.
Mr. J. Claridge : If they put up the building to the present frontage we cannot help ourselves.
Mr. T. Swindall’s Support
“Seize the Opportunity” - Rates Easier in a Year or Two
Mr. T. Swindall spoke in support of the application. He said: It is the duty of any local authority to look ahead. I have been on the Council 12 years and during that time the widening of Rectory-road from Newton-road to the station has been on our minds. The Surveyor has drawn up a scheme which has been considered several times by the Council, but it has always been put on one side because of the financial position of the town. I was one of the sub-committee appointed to meet the directors of the C.W.S., and we did all in our power to get them to set back their building line to give the 36 feet road and allow us at some future time to widen the road, but they would not do it. When it came to a question of purchasing the land, even if we had given the £180 for it, I was in favour of paying that amount because I could see that the town would be under a great disadvantage if it did not take this opportunity of having the street widened. There is a loan of £5,000 for the water scheme which has to be paid off in five years. It has been running three years. In two years it will be repaid. If we can get this loan of £1,000 for Rectory-road widening at the present time we shall not use it perhaps for the next nine or twelve months, and we shall not be called upon to pay our
for another twelve months, so the town will not have to pay anything for nearly two years, by which time the £5,000 would be wiped off. I am strongly in favour of this scheme being carried out, but I do not think the whole of the scheme will be carried out during the next 20 years. Still, we must take advantage of the opportunity of widening that part of the road now.
In answer to the Inspector, Mr. Swindall said the £5,000 loan to which he referred was jointly between Rushden and Higham Ferrers, but Rushden’s share was five-sixths.
Replying to Mr. Fred Knight, Mr. Mason said it was two years since the Water Board borrowed the £5,000, but they had only paid off £1,000 yet. Another instalment was due within a week.
Mr. Swindall replying to Mr. W. Clarke, said : The C.W.S. have never tried to force our hands. They would prefer not parting with the land.
Mr. Ballard’s Position in Favour of the Improvement - C.W.S. Sacrifice
Mr. F. Ballard : The reason I remained neutral in the vote at the Council meeting was because being an employee of the C.W.S. and being the local manager here, I thought it desirable that any vote should not be recorded. I am thoroughly in favour of the improvement, not for any advantage to the C.W.S,, because the land they have offered to sell at 4/2 a square yard cost them 24/6 a square yard. The C.W.S. are parting with land they can ill spare 180 square yards which has cost them £1 a square yard in excess of what they are asking the town to pay. I do not think our directors would have been willing to sacrifice any part of the land had I not brought as much pressure upon them as I possibly could for an improvement which I feel to be due to the town. It has been said that the whole improvement, if carried out from Newton-road to the station, would be very expensive. I do not think it would be carried out in the near future, but I think the time will come when the town will be glad to know that the present Council had sufficient forethought to make arrangements to open out this
which it really is. The C.W.S. give up sufficient land for a fair sized factory, which would give us 180 square yards’ flooring three or four times over, according to the number of storeys. The C.W.S. had no idea of forcing the town in any way. They did not approach the Council, the Council approached them. I think the C.W.S. have acted handsomely by the town. On the land which we offer for £100 there is one cottage which is letting at 5/10 a week and which would have to come down. It is not the C.W.S. who are asking the town for anything. From the town’s point of view I think it would be a very big mistake to let the chance go. If the building is erected right to the front as it undoubtedly will be if the present offer is not accepted it blocks the way of improvements in the future. The directors are rather anxious to bring the factory to the front. It will be no use complaining in years to come, seeing that the Council had the opportunity of acquiring the land.
In answer to the Inspector, Mr. Ballard said : The widening would, of course, be a great advantage to the C.W.S. as well as to the town in general.
Mr. J. Hornsby’s Support - Traffic Dislocated - Man’s Narrow Escape
Mr. J. Hornsby, chairman of the Rushden Industrial Co-operative Society and a former member of the Rushden Urban Council, supporting the application, said: I hope the improvements will be carried through. My business calls me about the town all the day, and there is not a day but what I see the need for this improvement. There is frequently an absolute stagnation of the traffic there. You commence along the High-street and you have to wait until someone comes from Portland-road. The wonder is that no one has been killed in that portion. Three years ago a man was nearly killed there. A horse ran away, and the man was caught by the wheels and very nearly crushed to death. A man told me the other day that he had seen five small accidents just recently. It is impossible for a horse to stop while a child gets out of the way. If no other portion of the improvement is carried through, I think this is absolutely the worst portion of the road. I consider that if the extension is carried out it will be a public improvement to everyone in the town. We should look a little way from self, and think of others. I hope this loan will be granted.
In answer to Mr. Endersby, it was stated that the loan would cost £50 a year and that the assessment of the C.W.S. factory when enlarged would be increased £100 a year.
The Barrister’s Speech
The Case for The Ratepayers’ Association - Costly and Unnecessary
Mr. Stimpson then made a strong speech against the application being granted. The Rushden Ratepayers’ association he said have instructed me to oppose the granting of the loan. We all agree that if Rushden were in a position financially to undertake this scheme and to make a 36 feet road from Newton-road to the M.R. station it would be most desirable to do so. But we have heard from Mr. John Claridge and others that this cannot be entertained at present. The Council never have entertained it. It would cost many, many thousands of pounds to acquire the property of all the different owners. Unless this £1,000 is part of the greater scheme it is a useless expenditure. It is no use to widen the Portland-road portion unless you widen at both ends as well. It is obvious that the Rector could not, even if he desired it, give up the land voluntarily. Then you have four cottages and the shop occupied by Mr. Chamberlain. You must take the whole of that property and pull it down, and the strip of land which was left would be too narrow to build upon and would be practically useless. You would also have to cut clean through the Salvation Army barracks. At Beaconsfield-terrace you get into another “bottle-neck,” and you have there only a public footpath four feet wide that is all the public have. I doubt very much whether you would get 36 feet there without interfering with the cottages; at any rate, you would have to sacrifice a footpath. Then you come to the M.R. property. Whether they would sell without compulsory powers or not, I do not know. It is obvious that this desire to widen Rectory-road throughout is
Merely A Pious Wish
which cannot for many years come before the Council in practical form. If that is so, my clients consider that the expenditure of £1,000 in widening that portion, and leaving the other as it was, would serve no useful purpose except to facilitate the C.W.S. traffic into Queen-street. At the present time trade is not very brisk in Rushden. The rates are 8/8 in the £ - a high rate, and that is not taking into account the water rent, which is 1/6. I have to present a petition against the application, signed by 355 ratepayers, who represent £19,833 rateable value. The petitioners “consider that it is essential in the interests of the town that consent should not be given to the loan; they believe the widening of Rectory-road to be unnecessary and undesirable.” This matter has been brought up by the rebuilding of the C.W.S. factory, and they have a perfect right to use the property they have acquired in any possible way. Mr. E. Claridge’s property is new and substantial. We cannot assume that out of mere spite, because we would not do what they want us to do, the C.W.S. would build up to the line. Mr. E. Claridge does not want to sell the property, and he is only charging you what it actually cost him. It seems to my clients an absolute waste of money and they request that the application be not granted.
The Inspector: It would be a convenience to the C.W.S.?
Mr. Ballard: Undoubtedly, or they would not make the sacrifices they have done. In the event of the widening not being carried out the building would undoubtedly be brought to the front and the cottage would be retained in its present position.
Direct Payment of Rates - The Opinions of The Tenants - “A Non-Representative Petition”
Mr. Bazeley said he should like to know how the opposition got at the value of the rates. There were property owners whose names were in the petition, and whose tenants did not pay the rates direct. The petition did not represent the opinions of these tenants at all. He did not think it was fair. The petition did not represent the opinion of the town.
Mr. G. Bayes: We did not find Mr. Bazeley’s name on the rate book at all.
Mr. Bazeley: Because we do not pay rates direct we are supposed to be non-ratepayers?
Mr. W. Clarke: Four out of the majority who voted for the improvement do not pay any rates direct.
Mr. H.H. Hobbs: I took the whole of the figures from the rate book myself. We should be very glad if every occupier paid his own rates.
Mr. W. Clarke’s Appeal
The Small Property Owner - Rates Increased 20 Per Cent
Mr. Wm. Clarke said there were a great number of small property owners like himself men who had struggled and worked for a little money with the object of improving their position, and they had invested that little money in a few cottages. In many cases, if they tried to realize to-day, they would lose every penny they had invested. A penny rate did not appear much; it looked paltry to object to it; but the line must be drawn somewhere. His rates had gone up 20 per cent. since he put up his property, besides which he only now got 20 per cent. reduction for compounding instead of 30 per cent. as before.
Mr. Joseph Knight : I understand that the extra rateable value of the factory when enlarged would be £100 a year, and that the loan would cost us £50. In that case where is Mr. Clarke’s argument?
The inquiry then terminated. The Inspector will report to the Local Government Board in the usual way.