Update 2 May 2015
At the Annual Town (Residents) Meeting last Monday, Town Mayor Paul Draper gave an explanation on why discussions had broken down with the Civic Society on repairing the water fountain in Castle Gardens. He said that unfortunately the processes and the need for meetings and for the council to ask questions had meant the council had “fell out of time with the civic society”. Castle Gardens is now scheduled monument and the need for permission from Heritage England added to the delays.
The Civic Society had unfortunately made a decision not to proceed. He had asked the society to reconsider.
He told the audience town council will be reviewing all the town’s assets as part of the review of town plan. Should the water fountain need an urgent response or something needs to be done for safety reasons, the work would be done by the council.
Paul said he was fully appreciative of the work of the Civic Society and hoped the discussions could be restarted.
A member of the audience cried: “It should have all been done by now.”
I am sorry that a marvellous philanthropic gesture to restore the water fountain in Castle Gardens has come to a halt. The Civic Society has withdrawn its offer to manage and pay for the conservation and repair of the fountain. This is after prevarication in town council committees as councillors challenged the scheme and asked for more reports.
If the Civic Society project cannot now go ahead, then the town council must take action itself.
The fountain has been neglected for years, even though it occupies a prime position in Castle Gardens. When I visited some months ago with council officers, I discovered the original dedication plaque recording that this fine cast iron edifice was donated by George Woodhouse, Mayor of Ludlow in 1908. The plaque had fallen off and I found it discarded in an aperture under the fountain. It must have lain hidden there for years, ignored as the fountain slipped from use to decay.
English Heritage has said it is perfectly happy with the Civic Society project, as are Shropshire Council’s conservation team. The project would have conserved the decaying fountain and provided an interpretation board. Yet the town council could not somehow bring itself to back the project in a timely and fuss free fashion, even though it would not cost local taxpayers a penny.
I am surprised that the council did not embrace this project wholeheartedly. In my view the town council’s intransigence in recent months has now left it with only one option.
Over the years, Ludlow Town Council seems to have been forgotten about the fountains. The abandoned Civic Society project has now brought the decay of the fountain to civic and public attention and it can no longer be ignored.
The town council owns the water fountain. It has neglected it. It has let the structure fall into disrepair despite it being donated by a former town mayor. Having looked a gift horse in the mouth, surely Ludlow Town Council should now pay for the urgently needed conservation work itself?
Unfortunately this means that the £10,000 or so cost of getting the fountain into a fit state will fall to the public purse rather than to a philanthropic organisation.
But if the town council doesn’t champion the heritage in its ownership, it can hardy complain if others in our town fail to do so.