Thornton Action Group

Chair’s Annual Report 2019 (for the year 2018)

Another busy year for Thornton – reflected in this Report for Thornton Action Group. TAG was formed in 2001 as a result of concerns about the rapid increase in housing developments and subsequent loss of open space. Since then this has become the norm not just here but across the country. TAG has come a long way since the time we were seen – in some quarters – as the ‘awkward squad’ and ‘nimbies’. In compiling this Report I feel it highlights a great deal of positive action and an abundance of genuine community spirit and co-operation. For this I feel a debt of gratitude is due to the TAG Committee all of whom give considerable time and energy promoting the interests of Thornton and its residents. Special thanks are due to Audrey Jenkins who is such an efficient secretary, Mona Whelan whose professional accounting keeps us solvent and Howard whose help and support is invaluable. Also to the loyal TAG members who attend our Open Meetings and respond to calls for help when requested; and to our local Councillors – especially Lynn Walmsley, Emma Ellison and Howard Ballard: our County Councillors Andrea Kay, John Shedwick and Alf Clempson; our MPs Ben Wallace and Paul Maynard.

1 I begin with the same issue this year as last year – flooding. Last year we were recovering from the severe flooding of November 22nd 2017. I think we are in a better position this year as not only have there been fewer incidents so far but we now have the advantage of an excellent, resourceful and pro-active Flood Action Group – FLAG – with Flood Wardens led by Philip Jenkins. The FLAG wardens investigate problems and report back to the Wyre Flood Forum which consists of representatives from LCC, Wyre Council, the Environment Agency, United Utilities and other FLAGS in Wyre. FLAG news is always on our Open Meeting Agenda.

2 Housing developments are never off the agenda! The landscape in North Thornton has now changed completely as a result of the construction of the new houses, the McCarthy and Stone sheltered apartment complex and the new Co-op store. The development is now established but we need to keep monitoring for flood risk, traffic and the available space for recreation in this and the wider area of Thornton.

Wain Homes’ plans for housing on Lamb’s Road have been contentious for several years and the first stage of development is now underway. Issues which continue to need monitoring include traffic and drainage. Recently the “Save Our Stanah and Little Thornton” group folded and we are pleased to receive the residue of their funds to continue our work in that area.

3 The importance of a Wyre Council Local Plan has been highlighted by TAG for many years and this is now in the process of realisation. In May the Inspector presided over the Public Hearing to examine the details proposed by the Council’s Planning Department. TAG members attended diligently and worked hard to put the case for Thornton not to be completely swamped by new housing. The result was some recognition of the justice of our case by the Inspector. The row of representatives of the housing developers sitting in the Council Chamber reminded me of a line of – admittedly smart sharp suited – vultures, waiting to pounce on every available scrap of land for housing and profit!

4 Open Spaces – for Recreation

We have always recognised the importance of Open Spaces for recreation and health. They need our constant vigilance. We continue to support Hawthorne Park and events there and now we are pleased to support Wyre Council through the efforts of Mark Fenton, in the plan to improve King George’s Playing Fields. It is good to see that the initial grant of £56,000 from Section 106 funding, was boosted in February by an extra £30,000 from the Lancashire Environmental Fund, which has resulted in new pathways, drainage and a fitness trail. New saplings have also been planted with the help of volunteers from the Wyre Countryside Rangers. Here’s hoping for more funding in 2019.

5 February 2018 saw more good news – Thornton Library was reopened at 9 a.m. on February 26th - in a freezing cold wind – by County Councillor John Shedwick. A large crowd of residents cheered and then hurried into the newly refurbished building, equipped with new displays of books and computers and a colourful children’s section. Thanks and congratulations go to all those residents and Councillors (especially Andrea Kay) who worked so hard to persuade LCC to reopen it.

6 2018 has been a year of Remembrance – 100 years on from the end of the Great War in 1918. On June 28th at 2 p.m. a service of dedication was held at the Thornton War Memorial for two beautiful, specially commissioned benches. One was for Joseph Blackburn – a Thornton market gardener who was wrongly called up in 1917 to fight in France. He was killed in action. The other bench commemorates the members of the Army, Navy and Air Force, and the nursing auxiliaries. The benches were funded from the LCC County Councillors funding with TAG making the formal application. I laid a wreath from TAG at the Memorial. We also participated in the Service of Remembrance on November 11th.

7 Sadly ‘there has been trouble at t’mill’ – i.e. Marsh Mill our iconic Grade II* listed landmark sold to Melrose in 2004 and leased back by Wyre Council. The lease runs out in five years’ time and the Council has wanted Friends of Marsh Mill to secure funding for its future. Wyre Council has spent c£350,000 to restore it but cannot afford to carry on this upkeep. Serious relationship difficulties have occurred and a newly constituted Friends Group has had to be created, with a new Committee. We support the new FOMM and would encourage all Thornton residents to do the same.

8 Once again - for the 13th consecutive year – TAG has organised the Christmas Lights in Thornton. We took the job on after making a complaint to the Council that a tree with 5 lights bulbs – two dark green and three dark blue – was not cheerful but depressing. We were challenged to do better. So we did! We quickly realised that it is not an easy task. Our Vice-Chair (then the Chair) Howard Phillips took on organising the lights in the trees at the Shopping Centre and the Little Theatre. Gradually a team built up to gather funds to match that from the Council Grant. Local traders and NPL contributed. There were collections in the Co-op over two days. We also quickly realised that TAG had to be responsible for everything – applying for the Council Grant, match funding, liaising with the contractors, insurance (absolutely vital) and then all the extra tasks involved in the ‘switch on’. A sub-committee was formed. The Co-op over the years has provided refreshments; Gill Finney Head of Baines School is a great help; local traders donate; local schools coax youngster to enter the ‘Big Red Button’ competition. Our local councillors help to contact local traders for funding. We liaise with police and the Gazette for a photographer, and invite the Mayor, Councillors and residents.

This year it was suggested that new North Thornton Co-op could have lights in a tree – but extra funding was needed. Fleetwood Town boss Andy Pilley contributed together with AGC Chemicals and the Co-op itself. There is always scope for things to go wrong. This year the weather was wet and windy which is not good for the electric cabling and the men putting them up! The contracting firm’s owner caught pneumonia and the switch on day was very wet but we did have 45 minutes without rain just at the right time for Father Christmas to arrive as did the Deputy Mayor (a bit late). The children sang beautifully, the button was pressed and the lights have looked great. We even got to appreciate the dumpy tree. All the entrances to Thornton have been lit up. Thank you to everyone.

9 Traffic problems are always there - potholes, speeding traffic, heavy lorries on Fleetwood Road North and more. It has been suggested that we set up a sub- committee to liaise with Police, LCC and Wyre. So......?

10 Some things never go away. Halite is still making gas storage ‘noises’ and seems to have sold out to NPL. What’s going on there?

Welcome to 2019! A Happy New Year.

Jenie Phillips Chair January 2019