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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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National award for Cockermouth shopfronts revival scheme

A scheme to revive Cockermouth’s flood-stricken shop fronts has won a prestigious heritage award.

Main Street Cockermouth photo
Cockermouth’s Main Street

Cockermouth Shopfront Steering group has been recognised for its efforts to restore the Conservation Area.

The group was presented with an English Heritage Angel Award for the Best Rescue of Any other Heritage Site.

Held at The Palace Theatre in London, it was hosted by TV presenter Clare Balding, with Graham Norton, Philip Mould, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, Melvyn Bragg and Charles Moore presenting the awards.

Darren Ward, who kick-started the scheme days after his home at Cocktons Yard off Main Street was flooded, was there to collect the award along with councillors Sam Standage and Margaret Jackson.

He said: “I spent the whole morning shaking hands and being congratulated for an amazing achievement. It’s been nearly three years and you can’t tell the town was flooded.

“The Culture Secretary cited us as a shining example.”

Mr Ward was not simply content to restore the flood-damaged shop fronts to their former glory. He said: “I said that we should build the town back much better.

“I just said that we have got to tackle the problem of positively and see it as an opportunity that doesn’t present itself very often.

“A major reason for the success of the scheme was the variety of skills displayed by the members of the steering group, together with their determination to work in a strong and close partnership.”

Mr Ward, the director of Redraven Design Limited, was at his home which doubles as an office when the floods hit.

He had put out some sandbags and nailed shut the door to the lane which gave him “15 minutes grace”.

But soon the water was 6ft deep in his house, forcing him to take refuge on the first floor.

He said: “I have never felt so completely out of control. It’s still difficult to realise that you were in that position: the force and the amount of water was overwhelming. The speed was staggering. It was like being in a film.”

The scheme has already won several awards, including a Georgian Group Award, international Civic Trust Award, and a Green Apple Award.

But Mr Ward said that this was the most important to him.

He said: “It emphasises the importance of architecture and that we did the right thing by seizing opportunities and striving for quality.

“It’s not just about Georgian architecture: it’s about doing a good job. What I found really important is that we, the people of Cockermouth, didn’t sit back and wait to be helped. The institutions then came in and were desperate to help.”

The award celebrates the drive, commitment and vision that made the restoration of flood damaged Cockermouth possible.

The scheme is run by English Heritage and inspired by its Heritage at Risk Register.

Judge Lord Bragg of Wigton said: “I was particularly pleased to see Cockermouth as a contender in these awards. I was there myself when the floods struck, and it was terrible for a small place but these people got up immediately and just got on with it.

“So it is terrific they had the imagination and foresight not only to repair but to nourish the existing character of this Georgian jewel of a town.”

Angel awards are co-funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.

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