The Old Prison, Northleach. Some of the Key issues – Heritage for the long term

Re-think proposed sale of the Old Prison at Northleach –give the community time.

The Old Prison at Northleach, is one of the most important assets in CDC’s care. The site came to CDC with grant support to ensure the site, and the nationally important collection of rural artefacts would be well cared for.

People then and now, would expect CDC to be taking a lead in stewardship of our district heritage and culture and be a safe pair of hands. A Grade 2 star building like this has huge heritage value for residents both young and old. It is also an internationally recognised heritage: inspiring Pentonville women’s prison and prison design in the Commonwealth and America.

Honouring the gifts Cotswold people gave wonderful rural artefacts to boost the Lloyd Baker collection of agricultural heritage; to be a resource for future generations to enjoy and learn from.

Democracy gap
The decisions about the Old Prison, made behind closed doors, have not been subject to proper public scrutiny. This goes against the new priority of encouraging localism and community involvement. Why should the Old Prison be sold without proper exploration of options? Letting go of such a flagship heritage asset is hard to justify. In fact everyone outside CDC is in the dark as the economic information and rationale for selling has not been put in the public domain. In contrast, in Bourton on the Water, a proper and lively movement to keep the Cottage Hospital site for
community benefit is happening.

What are the sums?
It seems that the annual costs and annual income for the Old Prison are fairly close – this building is not a
massive liability as some might lead us to believe. Many special funds exist for buildings of national significance.

Short term versus long term
The hole in CDC finances due in part to lost funds in Iceland (near 2 million) may have led to this decision to sell off this site.
However, the short-termist approach does not factor in the huge long-term benefits this site can bring to our area- and the ways it can and does generate income for the district. Sale proceeds could not be used prop up a gap in CDC’s running costs.

Breaking news is that most of the lost Iceland funds will be returned to CDC so why continue with the Old Prison sale?

Damage to Northleach and the district
Are tax payers’ interests being well served long term??

CDC is selling without having commissioned a detailed local economy impact assessment. At present the Old Prison activities bring trade and tourists to the town and enhance the overall experience of tourists to enjoy the whole AONB. Tourism is a millions of pounds industry and the lifeblood of our economy- why add to the recession dips by losing what is at the Old Prison?

Look to the future- employment and skills
The collection has been a focal point for rural skills in the past and with such high youth unemployment now it could again be part of a vibrant apprenticeship scheme. Footfall to local businesses is helped by the Escape to the Cotswolds exhibition and regular activities that use local shops, halls, catering and accommodation. If the AONB headquarters is forced to move away it will have a long term harming impact on the town.

The sale seems to be without any conditions or consideration of how to get best value for the community.
Future needs Being on our main transport route it is an ideal location for district residents and tourists to reach. Keeping the site in community control will make sure that economic benefits and opportunities come direct to the local economy and the building can be adapted to changing needs in the future. Over the years it has gone from prison, to skills centre, exhibition, offices and café, to name but a few uses; this demonstrates it has already adapted over the years to meet needs for our area as required.

Once it’s gone it’s gone. Big supermarket, hotel and bar, retirement homes, private house is this the future you want to see? It is the jewel within in the portfolio of CDC owned assets and there
is nothing else like it. We should not let it be sold off and lost to the community – we will only regret this in the future.

Imagination and inspired thinking The Old Prison, built as a model prison in the 1790s, is of historic importance, and this is why it is listed as grade 2 star. The rural collection is also an ideal link to modern day interest in learning skills. Skills for historic buildings such as lime plastering, dry stone walling and stonemasonry are all alive and well in our area and master craftsmen could share these to help the next generation of Cotswold men and women.

Proper stewardship for the long term could add to tourism by putting it on the visit list of people tracing their ancestry or taking man interest in the history of human rights as a usp in addition to the
rural history of the collection. Cultural and social hub- So many things could happen on this
site with some TLC and an active group of friends and supporters volunteering. Behind the walls is a lovely safe space, ideal for open air theatre, specialist events, and celebrations.

Time is needed to give other options a chance to be prepared. There are several great ideas coming from the community already. What would you like to see
happen, now, in 20 years time…..?

One possibility is for the Cotswold Conservation Board to become the custodian and owner. The Conservation Board has it’s HQ at the Old Prison and is keen to see the site remain of benefit to the community. They submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in late October. Their bid to HLF focuses on conserving the building and the famous Lloyd Baker collection, and ensuring public access for the future, as well as turning it into a vibrant visitor centre – therefore keeping it as an asset for the local community.

The full details of their bid are at:

Diana Ray

Editors Note:
Diana Ray, lives in Cold Aston, comes from a farming background and owns Living Green in Bourton.  She is not a member of any political party and has no links with the Cotswold Conservation Board. Along with other local people she has put together a summary of some of the key issues about the Old Prison and steps people could take right now to save it.  This is not just an issue for Northleach- people across the district are starting to voice out their concerns at the proposed sell off. This flagship building has a great future for the community. Diana’s family gave some of the artefacts in the rural collection, and it is in her mother’s memory that  she is taking a stand about what happens to the Old Prison at Northleach. She feels strongly that more time is needed for options to be developed. In Northleach a petition is circulating and is already gaining many signatures – it simply asks CDC to postpone the sale process to allow the community more time for better options to happen. Please sign and take part in supporting a better outcome.

The petition will also be online using the e-petition facility on Cotswold District Council’s own website. This will be the first ever e-petition CDC has allowed and is taking them a little time to set up. You should soon be able to find it on  in the democracy section

Writing letters to let CDC know what issues matter could encourage a change of heart and is highly recommended.

Roadshow in May and June to discuss changes to subsidised bus services .

Thursday 2nd June 2011     Northleach – Market Place parking area     10am-2pm

Over the past few months, Gloucestershire County Council has been reviewing subsidised bus services across Gloucestershire to save 50% (£2 million) from its transport budgets following recent government funding cuts.
The council is carrying out a two stage consultation process. Stage one was completed in January 2011 and stage two begins today, following publication of the proposed changes to subsidised bus services (details are available from the following link to the Gloucestershire County Council website). There will be a series of roadshows and information evenings across the county to discuss individual services and how communities may be affected. Dates for these roadshows and information evenings are shown below.

Go ahead for new concessionary fares scheme

Gloucestershire County Council has approved a new scheme to provide free bus travel for the elderly and disabled.

Today, Cabinet backed the new concessionary fares scheme and vowed to look at ways of helping people in remote areas continue to access free bus services in future. Currently the concessionary fares scheme is provided to 102,000 Gloucestershire residents by the district councils, but from April the county council will take over.

The government provides funding for a statutory scheme, which allows pass holders catch the bus for free between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays and all day at weekends and Bank Holidays. Previously, some district councils chose to pay for an enhanced service, which in some areas includes earlier start times, travel tokens in lieu of bus passes and taxi tokens/vouchers.

However, this year, the government has only given £5.3million to the county council while the statutory scheme alone costs £5.9million to provide. This means the council has to add £600,000 of its own funds just provide the basics.
The council has been talking to people for the past few months about the new scheme and it was looking at whether or not enhancements could be provided. But it is now clear that with the additional £600,000 the scheme will cost and considerable financial pressures the council is already under, it is not possible to provide enhancements across the board. However, feedback during the consultation showed real concern about people in rural areas accessing services where buses did not run after 9.30am.

To address this concern, a separate report will be put together, which will look at cost effective ways of helping these isolated communities affected by the change. To protect the more vulnerable in our society the council will also be offering a free companion pass for disabled people who are unable to travel unaccompanied.

District councils can still choose to provide enhancements themselves if they wish. Cllr Stan Waddington, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “When we talked to people the key issue that kept cropping up was access to services in rural areas where buses do not run after 9.30am, and it was clear that we needed to look more closely at this.

“In an ideal world, we’d like to extend the statutory scheme so everyone could travel when they wanted, but we have to be realistic.
“We already have to add £600,000 to cover the cost of the basic scheme and with our budgets stretched to the limits we cannot afford to put anymore into this.
“A new report will be prepared to look at what we can do to help those people who affected by the time changes, but this will be on a needs only basis.”

The scheme, introduced in 2006, provides free local bus travel for the over 60’s and eligible disabled people throughout England. During the consultation 900 people responded and 71 people attended drop-ins.
The county council will introduce online and library facilities for customers to use to apply for passes in future.
All existing passes will continue to be valid but anyone renewing after April 2011 will need to deal with the county council instead of their district council to get their new pass.

Issued by Lisa Bonnell, Gloucestershire County Council Media Team, 01452 425226

Lisa Bonnell
Media & PR Manager
Gloucestershire County Council
Shire Hall, Westgate Street, Gloucester, GL1 2TG
Tel: 01452 425226 / 07805 540422

Your chance to have your say on public transport

What do you think of bus services in Gloucestershire? Gloucestershire County Council is asking people what their transport priorities are as part of Meeting the Challenge.

In September, the council announced it was looking to save £2million from its transport budget through a fundamental review of bus routes.
One of the main drivers of the review is the high subsidies the council currently has to pay for some bus journeys.
In future, council-run services will focus on getting people to employment, education and to vital facilities like doctors’ surgeries and hospitals.
To ensure that any changes made, take into account people’s transport needs, from Tuesday 11th January until Monday 31st January, we’re asking people to tell us what they think is most important.

Questionnaires are available online at and can also be sent out via post from Tuesday 11th Jan.

People will be asked questions about buses in general to ensure we get a clear picture of what the new county-wide services should look like.
Cllr Stan Waddington, cabinet member for environment, said: “What we’re proposing here is to start from scratch and completely re-think how we provide bus services.
“At the moment, we’re paying very high subsidies for some services because many people just aren’t using them.
“The new focus will be on getting people to essential services – school, work or to seek medical care, which is vital.
“We need to know what people think about bus services so we can look at what we provide and make the changes.
“I would encourage anyone who uses buses and community transport in Gloucestershire to take part in our consultation and give us your views.”
The review does not mean that the highest subsidy services will definitely be cut, but it does mean that we’re looking to review and improve how all services operate to reduce the financial burden to the council taxpayer.

Community Transport funding will be prioritised so that in some areas where subsidised bus services are not viable, Community Transport minibuses and  volunteer car schemes will help fill that gap.
We will continue to support them so they can increase their existing services.
People attending drop-in consultations on concessionary bus fares have already given us a lot of feedback on bus services and this will be added to future feedback we collect.

To request a questionnaire, or for any queries about the review, call the bus review helpline on 01452 426263.

New concessionary fares scheme for Gloucestershire

Free bus travel for the elderly and disabled will continue in Gloucestershire.

From April next year, Gloucestershire County Council will take over responsibility from the district councils to provide the concessionary fares service.
The scheme, introduced in 2006, provides free local bus travel for the over 60’s and eligible disabled people throughout England.

In Gloucestershire, currently each district council operates a different scheme, which means what people are eligible for varies from area to area. At the moment, some of the district councils pay for an enhanced service, which in some areas includes earlier start times, travel tokens in lieu of bus passes and taxi tokens/vouchers.
From April 2011, there will be one county-wide scheme operated by the county council so everyone will be entitled to the same level of service.

The new scheme will provide bus passes for people to use between 9.30am and 11pm weekdays and all day at weekends and bank holidays. To protect the more vulnerable in our society we will also be offering a free companion pass for disabled people who are unable to travel unaccompanied.

Applying for and renewing passes will be simpler as the council will introduce online and library facilities for customers to use. All existing passes will continue to be valid but anyone renewing after April 2011 will need to deal with the county council instead of their district council to get their new pass.

Concessionary fares is a statutory scheme paid for by the government, but it is not clear yet whether Gloucestershire County Council will receive enough money to cover the cost of the scheme.
With the county and district councils already facing significant funding pressures, it is unlikely that additional enhanced services will be provided.

This means the current enhanced discretionary elements may stop from April 2011, subject to consultation.
Working with district councils, we will be asking concessionary fare users how these changes will affect them in November and December.

Cllr Stan Waddington, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “During our recent conversations with the public, the majority of people told us that concessionary fares were important so I am delighted this scheme will continue.

“I do understand that for some people losing the discretionary enhancements may be difficult.
“Unfortunately, we simply cannot afford to put any additional money into this scheme when we’re facing the biggest funding gap we’ve ever had.
“The service we are providing will still allow free travel across the county for anyone who is eligible and that has to be our priority.”

For further information and to fill in a questionnaire, visit or call 01452 426263. Both the website and phone number will be open from Friday 19th November.