It has and continues to be a challenging time for most, but for the town’s voluntary group Renaissance Knaresborough it is regrouping and setting its sight on a brighter 2021.
Renaissance Knaresborough (RK) is a not-for-profit organisation open to residents, community groups, social enterprises, and institutions. Their aim is to invite engagement from the community to promote Knaresborough. RK’s role is to support activities that promote the town’s heritage, arts, culture, leisure, tourism, infrastructure, and entertainment, ‘making a great town even better’.
Despite the arrival of the pandemic, the group has continued to operate remotely and has continued to drive town initiatives forward. The newly appointed Chair Councillor Zoe Metcalfe said, “with a fresh start to the year, we thought it time to share the status of past projects and beginning of new initiatives planned for 2021.”
Perhaps the most notorious RK project has been the Cliff Lift, a mechanical transportation system linking waterside with the castle grounds and easier access to the town. Towards the end of 2019, an independent tourism consultant was appointed to determine the economic viability of the project concept. The findings concluded that the scheme was a viable prospect, stating “it is no longer a question of if, but when?”. The project has also received interest from the private sector investors; however, it remains too early to define any ownership structure, a strong community element will be maintained. The most significant drawback to the progress of the Cliff Lift is in securing land and development rights, as with any large capital project it requires certainties and clear time horizons. For any development to take- shape it requires a development agreement with the landowner. In this instance, the Castle and its grounds (defined as Listed Monument) are owned by the Duchy Estate, and Harrogate Borough Council manages the grounds under a long-term lease. However, this long lease is now only 12 years away from term end, with insufficient time for any large-scale investment. To progress the project further this issue must be resolved. Tim Sutherland RK Secretary said “understandably, the council resources and priorities are heavily focused on pandemic and its impact on front line services. However, it is our hope is that when the authority turns its attention towards economic recovery, we can return to exploring the project.”
Another vitally important project is the repair and maintenance of the highly popular ‘Trompe l’oeil’ Towns Windows. Originally an idea adopted from the FEVA festival, RK installed eight windows back in 2008 and had grown to sixteen on ten properties. Given their popularity, others have commissioned paintings over the years, they are not all managed by one organisation. Regrettably, we lost a Town Window painting on Briggate last year due to a change in property ownership, in combination with some much-needed repair work needed on the painting. This spurned us to reconnect with all town custodians and commence a programme of repair and restoration, as well as commencing a fund-raising campaign. To date we have raised over £1,500, and we would like to say a massive thank you to all that have contributed. Donations can still be made to gofundme.com. Our plan is to begin a rolling programme of repair and maintenance activities with all our Town Windows in 2021, as well as commissioning a new painting to replace the lost Window on Briggate.
“We think this is a great opportunity to appeal to local schools and school children to take up the challenge in defining a new character for a new Town Window, we would love to hear from you”, said RK’s Liz Baxandall.
Since its inception in 2019, the Knaresborough Town Museum Association has gone from strength to strength, taking on its own identity and building a large group of volunteers and followers. The plan is to create the museum within the former Castle Girls’ School in Castle Yard to complement the Court House Museum and Castle, creating a rich cultural quarter for Knaresborough. It will celebrate the town’s rich history and people, telling Knaresborough’s fascinating and important stories to locals and visitors alike with heritage, community and education at its core. Knaresborough Museum Association has launched an ambitious funding campaign, which can be found here: crowdfunder.co.uk
Kathy Allday (Chair) explains, “Knaresborough has for too long punched below its weight, particularly in terms of historic and cultural significance, this has been due to of a lack of access to information and many untold stories. Whilst the Castle and its Courthouse Museum serves the town well, it has too many constraints to adequately tell the story of our rich history.”
In 2019 RK worked with Harrogate Diving Club to try and locate the Lost Canon, which is believed to have fallen into the river Nidd some +50 year ago. The conditions during this first dive were and whilst plenty of foreign objects were identified the canon remained elusive. Intriguingly, during this exploration we were approached by a technology firm which specialises in search and recovery, which claimed to have surveyed the search area and have identified the location of the canon. We intend to work with all parties, hopefully in the summer of 2021 and finally solve the mystery.
RK has also been working with Councillor Ed Darling and residents of the Appleby estate to secure funding to renew the estate's play area.
This project has been running for just over a year with a fundraising charge supported by Harrogate Borough, North Yorkshire County and Knaresborough Town councils, Knaresborough Lions, Rotary and Relief in Need. We have now secured 10 per cent of the final cost of renewing the play area.
An application has been submitted to the FCC Landfill Communities Fund for the remaining 90% costs. The group is eligible to apply due to the area's proximity to the Allerton Waste Recovery Park. FCC, formerly WREN, worked with Renaissance Knaresborough to establish the play area for the Eastfield estate on Nidderdale Drive.
Councillor Ed Darling, leading the project, said: "I am very pleased with how the fundraising has progressed. A lot of local groups and councils have got behind the residents to provide additional financial support on top of their own estate fundraising efforts. With the grant application now submitted to FCC we need to wait until next month to learn whether we have been successful."
RK are committed to improving Knaresborough, its environment as well as increasing the presence of renewable energy within the parish. RK is exploring the potential for a community-owned renewable energy scheme, studying the viability of river run hydro and the increased adoption of solar energy and storage. At the end of 2020, RK secured a partnership agreement with a private landowner and leveraged a £2,000 community grant from North Yorkshire County Council. This funding has allowed us to commission a hydro consult to conduct a feasibility study. Subject to the study findings we hope to set up the community energy company and progress with further feasibility and statutory consultations.