Members and guests who attended Chesterfield and District Civic Society’s meeting at St Thomas’s church centre on Saturday November 18 heard four outstanding presentations on ‘Democracy at Work: a View from Inside’. The event was the society’s contribution to UK Parliament Week.
Te first speaker was Natascha Engels, until recently Labour MP for North East Derbyshire and one of only two women to serve as a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. Ms Engels, putting over important points in a clear and witty way, explained how the reform of procedure since the turn of the century has given backbench Members more influence over the Government and Opposition front benches.
She was followed by Lee Rowley, the newly elected Conservative MP for the division, who shared some first impressions of the Commons, as someone entering the House from a business background. He wished to see more issues approached on a non-partisan basis, for example the improvement of public transport in the North of England, which he argued was hardly a party matter.
The third speaker, Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield since 2010, by contrast took the view that politics was always bound to be partisan. He explained how an effective Opposition could put pressure on the Government and sometimes force it to abandon or change its policies. He too succeeded in explaining very well some technical details of Commons business.
Finally, Paul Holmes, the Liberal Democrat MP for Chesterfield between 2001 and 2010, made an impressive case for proportional representation, giving numerous examples of the unfairness of the current first-past-the-post system, and arguing that coalition government in Europe did not, as the British often believe, always mean weak government. He pointed out that the Coalition Government of 2010–15 had, despite gloomy forecasts to the contrary, lasted its full term and achieved a measure of economic recovery.
All the presentations attracted a lively discussion, including valuable comments from Mr Harry Barnes, the former Labour MP for North East Derbyshire , and everyone agreed afterwards that the meeting had been both enjoyable and instructive.
We understand that the East Midlands Chamber have resubmitted the planning application , with a proposal for the conversion of the house into four flats .There will be slightly fewer houses on the rest of the site .
CHESTERFIELD AND DISTRICT CIVIC SOCIETY PRESS RELEASE
Civic Society urges Council to save historic building
Chesterfield and District Civic Society has written to the Borough Council asking them not to allow the demolition of what the society believes is the last building in the town associated with the Chesterfield Canal. Thornfield, a stone-built Georgian house of the early 1830s, is part of the former offices of the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce on Canal Wharf, which the Chamber wishes to redevelop for housing. The Civic Society is in favour of new houses being built there, but wishes to see Thornfield retained.
Philip Riden, the society’s chairman, explained that Thornfield was built by Joseph Gratton, who was the Chesterfield Canal Company’s ‘agent’ (general manager in modern terms) between 1802 and 1839, when he was presented with a silver tea service by the company on his retirement. Gratton also designed the town’s original gas and waterworks on Foljambe Road and had a draper’s shop on High Street. He was a keen amateur scientist and made fireworks for public shows which he put on in the Market Place. ‘Joseph Gratton was clearly a remarkable man’, commented Mr Riden, ‘and his home at Thornfield is important as the last surviving building in Chesterfield connected with the canal. This brought prosperity to the town 200 years ago and will do so again once it is fully restored’.
The Civic Society has asked the Borough Council to issue a Building Preservation Notice to protect Thornfield from demolition for six months, during which time a plan can be worked out to incorporate it in the redevelopment scheme. In the meantime, the society has written a short history of the house, which is available on their website.