Protect our Place - Marple

A visit took place concerning the Protect our Place (PoP) project to Marple on the 15th of August 2012.

This was attended by representatives from:

  • Civic Voice – Protect our Place Project Manager – Sarah Spurrier (SS)
  • Marple Civic Society – Gillian Postill, Jane Lawton, Graham Clarke, Alan Postill, Colin Fox
  • Mellor Archaeological Trust – John and Ann Hearle
  • Marple Locks Heritage Society – Rod Greeves
  • New Horizons – Peter Sharp
  • Marple Vision Partnership

A follow up visit was conducted on 24th of August 2012, attended by various members of the Marple Civic Society, as well as a group of parents from a local primary school.

The visits were intended to be an information gathering exercise, to discover what local action has been taken in the area to protect and promote the historic environment, and also to trial some survey questions for the Protect our Place project.

Mellor Archaeological Trust

After being met by Marple Civic Society upon arrival, SS was taken to the home of two founding members of the Mellor Archaeological Trust, to have an informal discussion about what it is the group has been involved in, and also to look at some of the site which has been excavated by the Trust in the past.

The discussions led to a better understanding of why the Trust was founded. This was a reactive establishment following the discovery of an Iron Age settlement in the Mellor area, in order to be able to undertake the archaeological project related to this site. However the Trust has expanded its remit, and is currently working towards a project concerning the Mellor Mill which will be discussed in more detail further in the report.

Discussion also centred on the communities involvement with the Trust, and this has been extremely positive with strong participation throughout. The subject of funding was opened, and the Trust has been successful in several grant applications in the past, enabling the archaeological digs to take place. Partnerships have been formed through the Trust’s activities, including close working with Staircase House museum in Stockport, and the University of Manchester and the University of Salford. More recently, working relationships have been established between neighbouring community groups as well, such as the Marple Civic Society, creating a strong local cohort of community action.

Mellor Mill

The group then visited the site of Mellor Mill, a large site containing the remains of the Mellor Mill, an important example of the industrial period. The mill is part of a current HLF proposal that will involve many of the local community groups in the area working in partnership (see discussion of Lime Kilns and Aqueduct below). The wish is to excavate certain areas of the mill and allow public access, whilst providing some heritage interpretation as well as visitor facilities. Local support for the project so far has been high, with a steady participation rate from local volunteers.

Marple Civic Society and Mellor Archaeological Trust Focus Group

After a break for lunch the group reconvened, along with other members of the Marple Civic Society at the house of the current chair, Gillian Postill. The purpose of this session was for SS to discuss with the group the PoP project, and certain questions which may be found in the coming survey. SS put the question to the group of why did they become involved in the civic movement? The response was varied, however all participants bar one put their initial interest down to a reactive issue, such as concerns about changes to the local road systems. The one participant, who adopted a proactive approach, gave the reason as being a general interest in the history of the area. All agreed on a continued level of participation being a result of a love and pride in the heritage and current state of their local area, and a desire to protect and promote this.

This then led to a discussion centred on the perception of the civic movement and local heritage societies. It was stated by members of the Marple Civic Society that the word civic was seen as old fashioned and not clearly understood by the public, and therefore an obstacle to participation and membership. The issue of the name, however led to an agreement that it should not be changed as the perception of the term ‘civic’ could become positive through the work of proactive groups such as Marple Civic Society and Civic Voice. The problem of name was also aired in relation to Marple Antiquarian Society who changed their name due to its outdated connotations.

The role of Civic Voice and its projects such as Street Pride and Civic Day was raised, and it was agreed that Civic Voice was instrumental in helping societies become proactive, and its support was necessary to strengthen a society’s position.

Marple Warf and the Marple Locks Heritage Society

The focus group adjourned and a smaller cohort went to visit the Marple Locks, and met with Rod Greeves of the Marple Locks Heritage Society. Rod explained the history of the area and its importance to the local community both past and present. SS also put to him the questions of how the society was formed and why he became involved. It was explained that the society was only formed in 2003 as a celebratory society at the bicentenary of the locks creation. The group very much work to maintain the locks and their settings, and are supported by a committed group of volunteers. Rod’s participation in the group was also proactive, and the result of a general interest in the locks, and a desire to maintain them.

New Horizons

The group then went to visit a project that operates from Marple Wharf, the New Horizons Charity canal boat. The group operates trips down the canal for people with disabilities, in a specially converted canal boat. The work of the charity is highly valued in the community, and allows people who may not otherwise be able to enjoy the heritage of the canals to engage with them in a unique way.

Marple Wharf and the Marple Vision Partnership

During the visit to the New Horizons group the future of Marple Wharf was raised. The current state of the wharf is in jeopardy as there is currently a planning proposal to convert the site into housing, being led previously by British Waterways, and now the Canal and Rivers Trust. This would eliminate the current access for the New Horizons group and places their future under threat. The wharf also contains a wealth of industrial heritage and has been in commercial use since its creation, with moorings still being utilised at the site.

To protect the wharf, its setting and the communities it serves, Marple Civic Society wrote the Vision for Marple and set up the Marple Vision Partnership together with other stakeholders. The Partnership involves the local council, community groups and businesses, and is chaired by an elected member. It is there to ensure a positive and sustainable future for Marple, including the preservation of the local heritage. Members of Marple Civic Society and other groups are actively involved in following the Vision to ensure the safeguarding of the wharf, as well as its regeneration in the future.

This concluded the site visits for the day.

Marple Wharf Continued - 24/08/12

Due to time constraints, the whole story of the wharf could not be fully understood from the one site visit. Therefore a follow up visit took place. This allowed the project manager to meet a more diverse set of Marple Civic Society volunteers, including young mothers who had engaged specifically with the Wharf project. The project manager questioned them as to why and how they volunteer. The response was again reactive, with the threat to the Wharf being their main motivator, very in line with other civic volunteers questioned previously. The topic of how they contribute to the civic movement was more difficult. They knew to save the Wharf action was needed further to what had already been undertaken; however the course of action was unclear to them. This was then further probed by the project manager who asked what could the movement do to facilitate their action, in which they replied provide training. It was not that they were unable to obtain funding, but that they lacked confidence and knowledge of the best way to apply for it. When questioned what training would be of assistance, the reply was any which could further their ability to protect the Wharf, whether that be in marketing, conservation, business and so on.

Lime Kilns

Following the aforementioned interview, a smaller contingent then paid a visit to the now redundant lime kilns. The kilns are now barely visible to the public, in a dilapidated and bricked up state, with no interpretation provided for the public. Future plans for the lime kilns were discussed in reference to the Marple Vision Partnership, as well as the current HLF bid. There has been previous archaeological interest in the site, and if funding is obtained, archaeology as well as clearing and on site interpretation will take place. All intellectual property connected to the site will come under the custodianship of the Marple Civic Society.


To conclude the visit, a visit was then made to the Marple Aqueduct. The Aqueduct is a very impressive industrial structure, with stunning views into the valley as well as to the neighbouring viaduct, making its setting unique to the area. The physical access to the site is not easy as the direct route for walkers is difficult to negotiate in order to enjoy the area; something that is being redressed in the HLF bid. There is also a lack of interpretation, with an inability for visitors to engage historically with the structure.

An integral part of the HLF bid between Mellor Archaeological Trust, Canal and Rivers Trust, Marple Vision Partnership and Marple Civic Society is the increasing of physical and emotive access to this and related sites.
This concluded the site visits for the day.


The wealth of community groups and volunteers in the Greater Marple area is a wonderful example of the strength of the civic movement. There is a patchwork of projects underway in the local area, both reactive and proactive, to ensure that Marple’s historic environment is protected and promoted to its fullest. The current HLF bid, if achieved, will mark a new phase for Marple’s heritage, and has facilitated partnerships within local community groups, strengthening Marple’s civic movement.

If the threat to the wharf is realised, Marple will suffer a great loss, not only to the built historic environment, but also the loss of a potential community asset. However, as a result of the threat there came the establishment of Marple Vision Partnership, again highlighting the strength, commitment and adaptability of the local community in Marple.

The visit allowed Protect our Place to better understand the subtleties of projects being taken on by voluntary groups, and the challenges they face. An understanding of individuals and groups motives for participation was achieved, and this will inform the next stage of the Protect our Place survey.

Many Thanks

As project manager I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those involved in the day for their hospitality, openness and frankness. It is very encouraging to meet with communities such as Marple who work together so relentlessly to protect and promote their historic environment, and it was a pleasure to spend the day with them all.

Sarah Spurrier

Annex 1

Below is a comprehensive timeline very kindly provided by Marple Civic Society to help both the project manager, and other interested stakeholders better understand the various stages of the wharf campaign, outlining certain process, consultations and meeting. This timeline is a demonstration of the dedication and hard work of the Marple Civic Society and other local volunteers, and represents the long battle that the proposed development of the wharf has necessitated.

Marple Wharf Timeline

January 2009

  • Poorly advertised Public Consultation by British Waterways (BW)
  • 11 houses (including grade II listed warehouse for residential use)
  • New Horizons Charity Trip Boat for disabled people, launched by Prince Charles in 1981, given 12 months to quit their mooring at the wharf without further offer of an alternative mooring.
  • Boating facilities would be removed from the site.
  • Marple Civic Society (MCS) wrote a letter of objection to BW.

June 2009

  • Public response to the Marple Wharf Proposal by BW
  • MCS received 98 emails and letters of objection, mainly from residents of Marple and boaters. Summary of objections from the public collated by MCS and presented to BW.

June 2009

  • BW entered into an 'Extended Consultation' with MCS,
  • BW agreed to the series of meetings after considerable public pressure/response to their proposal for Marple Wharf.

January 2010

'Vision for Marple' put together by MCS with contributions and support from many local societies. The aim of the 'Vision' was to highlight the importance of Marple Wharf to Stockport MBC in order to engage them and enlist their support for an alternative community project for the wharf.

January 2010

  • 'Vision for Marple' presented to Stockport MBC
  • Marple Civic Society presented the 'Vision for Marple' to Stockport MBC officers. The officers agreed to a meeting with BW to discuss the 'Vision' proposals.

January 2010

  • Stockport MBC Officers meet BW
  • Following the presentation to Stockport MBC, council officers and MCS had a joint meeting with BW. BW agreed to work with the 'Vision' projects except for the Marple Wharf proposals. Their plans for a housing development at Marple Wharf remained unchanged.

February 2010

  • Public Consultation re 3 schemes for Marple Wharf.
  • 123 people attended the two hour consultation in Marple Library.
  • 91 questionnaires completed. (Some were submitted by two people)

People were asked to list their 1st and 2nd preferences from the following 3 questions:

  • A. British Waterways should proceed with proposed development (which then stood at 7 houses, a nursery, New Horizons and boating facilities retained)
  • B. The present proposal should be abandoned and a regeneration scheme developed focusing on Community, Recreation and Tourism. This would be developed in conjunction with Stockport MBC.
  • C. British Waterways and Marple Civic Society should continue to consult improve the balance between the following:
    1. Residential;
    2. Commercial;
    3. Public Access;
    4. Nursery;
    5. Other (Summary of comments, under other, collated by MCS)
1st Preference B = 73 (80%) C = 18 (20%) A = 0 (0%)
2nd Preference C = 46 (50%) B = 11 (12%) A = 3 (3%)

MCS presented the results to BW but no action or further discussion about the results ensued

February 2010

  • Toll House Business Plan presented to BW
  • A Business Plan for the Toll House was developed at the request of BW during the extended consultation period.
  • There has been no written reply or acknowledgment of the Business Plan.

May-June 2010

  • Reports written by MCS re Issues concerning Marple Wharf
  • The public repeatedly voiced the same issues of concern for the Wharf. Because the public message and MCS's views for the wharf remained unchanged since the original BW proposal in January 2009, the Civic Society produced four reports to address the issues of concern.
  • The four reports were presented to BW.
  • The subject of the reports were: Heritage, Planning Policy, Open Space and Canoeing on Canals.
  • The reports have been neither acknowledged nor replied to.

November 2010

  • Vision for Marple Exhibition in Marple Library 1st - 6th November
  • Exhibition manned on the Saturday and leaflets handed out in the town centre to encourage people to visit the exhibition. The exhibition was very well attended with a steady stream of people throughout the day. At times the room was full and 'buzzing'. Five local councillors and Andrew Stunell MP attended.
  • 64 Comments slips completed - in answer to the question "Do you support the Vision for Marple”, all 64 answered 'yes'.
  • Four councillors completed the comment slips.
  • MCS collated the suggestions from the comment slips.

November 2010

  • Evening consultation to stakeholders on the ''Vision for Marple”
  • 61 people attended including local voluntary groups, councillors and SMBC officers.
  • Unanimous decision to take the 'Vision for Marple' forward.
  • 'Marple Vision Partnership' subsequently set up (see below) with the aim of turning the 'Vision' into reality.

January - June 2011

  • Preparation for setting up the Marple Vision Partnership (MVP)
  • MCS met with Council Officers and Cllr. Sue Ingham to agree the format, name and MOU for setting up the Marple Vision Partnership - also met with BW who agreed to act on a consultancy basis on issues and projects involving the canals other than those for Marple Wharf.

May - 2011

Client Based Project – A Vision For Marple Regenerating Marple's Historic Canals
A report was written by four students at the University of Manchester as part of their Masters degree in Urban Design. The report concluded that Marple Wharf is an important heritage area. Regeneration of the site should create urban space for recreation and leisure purposes to attract residents, tourists and visitors.

June - 2011

  • Letter to BW – Request to remove Marple Wharf from Property Portfolio
  • Cllr Sue Ingham wrote to BW requesting them to re consider Marple Wharf with a view to removing it from the property portfolio into a heritage/community regeneration portfolio.

September 6th 2011

  • Inaugural meeting of the MVP

November 2011

LDF Allocation DPD

  • The Civic Society responded in detail to the Sustainability Appraisal Screening Report. For Marple Wharf site our response concluded that: “The society would support the use of this site for leisure, recreation, community and education uses as outlined in the “Vision for Marple” and therefore “leisure, community and education” use should be moved from Band B to band A”.
  • The planning department have confirmed that any uses mentioned in the 'Vision for Marple' would be acceptable in terms of planning.

January 2012

  • Presentation to Marple Area Committee
  • Marple Vision Partnership and project updates presented to Marple Area Committee.

February/March 2012

  • Glasshouse Community Led Design Workshops and Study Tour to Hollingwood-Hub Chesterfield
  • Aim: to further develop a community based plan for Marple Wharf. 40 people, including 8 students from Marple Hall School, took part in the project and concluded that a community project should be taken forward. BW was invited to the workshops but did not attend.

July 2012

  • Toll House Submitted to Save Britain's Heritage
  • The Toll House and adjoining cottage at Marple Wharf was submitted by Marple Civic Society to Save Britains Heritage and features in the 'Building at Risk' register, June 2012. SAVE is an influential group which campaigns effectively for endangered historic buildings.

July 2012

The Time is Right - Visit to Andrew Stunell MP

  • MCS recognised several pertinent changes e.g. The Localism Act and BW becoming a charity following a healthy financial settlement from government. As a Charity, CRT has different objectives from BW and a shift in philosophy in keeping with our aspirations for Marple Wharf.
  • Cllr. Sue Ingham and MCS Chair Gillian Postill visited Andrew Stunell MP who agreed to write to CRT to request a 1 year moratorium, to allow the development of a comprehensive plan in conjunction with CRT, and to agree to a meeting of CRT officers (other than development officers whose solution for the wharf is to build houses) and Marple community.

July 2012

  • 'Revealing Oldknow's Heritage' HLF bid for £1.3 million
  • The project focuses on the Mellor Mill Site and the Peak Forest Canal (Marple Aqueduct, Lime Kilns and increased access).
  • This is a joint bid by Mellor Archaeological Trust and CRT, supported by MCS and MVP.

1st August 2012

  • Reply from CRT via Andrew Stunell MP
  • The opinion of CRT is that a housing led development is the best way of securing a commercially viable and sustainable use for the site. Mr Jeremy Harrison, CRT property developer will contact Gillian Postill to update her on their current situation.
  • It is understood that CRT do not plan any further public consultation.

August 2012

  • Marple Wharf - Case Study for 'Protect Our Place' Research
  • Marple Wharf has been selected as one of five case studies for this research project by Civic Voice – it is funded by English Heritage and project managed by Sarah Spurrier.

September 2012

  • Marple Vision Partnership - Public exhibition in Marple Library
  • Local groups invited to showcase their work in a week long exhibition and a stakeholder evening meeting. CRT invited to the meeting. Marple Civic Society will include an update on Marple Wharf as part of the exhibition.