You can’t beat a bit of creative marketing. And our decision, following last year’s floods, to delay the Big Day until our hotel of choice could accommodate us, has certainly opened up a range of marketing opportunities – some not quite as obvious as others.
It’s the law of unintended consequences at work again except, on this occasion, the consequences are all good. Unlike ‘Watership Down. The Cockermouth Cut’, which saw the Strawberry How rabbits – unceremoniously turfed from their natural habitat by the diggers – quickly making themselves at home on our lawn. What with its all-you-can-eat ‘a la carte’ menu on tap.
I’d already discussed with James at the Trout Hotel that they might use our wedding as PR, it being their first function this year. I took the opportunity here to thank locals who’d helped make our day and give them a plug. And now, it transpires, we’re helping sell off-piste ski courses, thanks to our favourite wedding photographer and ski instructor, Martin.
It was while we were in Tignes in December, on an ‘Inspired to Ski‘ course, that Cockermouth flooded. The rest you know. Potential customers for next season are now being lured with the tale of our delayed nuptials and the fact we’ve signed up for another course this coming December, with the call to action to ‘feel free to join them and toast their success’. Hope that doesn’t mean we’re paying!!
Hoarding up trouble
The compliance officer at Allerdale might soon be wishing she’d found gainful employment elsewhere, as her inbox fills with updates from those of us keeping an eye on the Story Homes site for any perceived breach of planning conditions.
So far, besides the water, birds, bats and otter stuff, we’ve logged longer working hours (from early in the morning, once or twice through till 8.00pm), dirty roads (despite Mr Elliott’s best efforts), and the daily rattle of wagons up and down the road (one every six minutes for several consecutive days at one point). There is always an explanation. Of course. Often, it seems, it’s simply their word against ours.
The latest kerfuffle concerns the erection of a sales office and marketing hoardings. And here I admit to being a little confused. Given that Mr Story has potentially 320 homes to sell, I would have expected a marketing suite and show homes to be high on the list of jobs-to-do (as a self-confessed ‘show home snooper’, over the years I’ve whiled away many an afternoon checking out what’s on offer, how much room there is for any realistic furniture and for how much).
So far, I’ve been informed (by those who should know) that the marketing suite and hoardings comprise those ‘moveable structures… required temporarily in connection with and for the duration of operations’ (so permission not required), that it represents a retail outlet and associated advertising (so permission definitely required), that the developer withdrew an application for planning permission only last week, that the application for permission was turned down only last week. Is it any wonder we mere mortals get confused?
Meanwhile, one note from Kerry, the beleaguered compliance officer, does worry me – and might just worry others up to their eyes with Planet Planning. I assume it applies nationwide and demonstrates (being fair to the planners), just how much their hands are tied.
In an email to another resident, she writes that the council ‘cannot take enforcement action based solely on the grounds that development has taken place without planning permission. When determining the expediency of enforcement action, we need to demonstrate that the development is unacceptable. Also, although we would always advise that development should not take place without the benefit of planning permission, the powers available to us to stop work can only be used in circumstances where it is essential to do so to safeguard amenity of public safety or to prevent irreversible harm to the environment or the surrounding area’.
Can someone remind me why we even bother with the planning process?
‘How do you grow a popular market town without destroying what made it popular in the first place?’ asked Mark Denton, on BBC One Look North on Monday. He was talking about Hexham, in Northumberland, where the development of 600 new homes on green belt to the western edge of the town ‘could destroy communities and push transport networks to breaking point’. All sounding very familiar.
Market town without a market
Cockermouth too used to be a market town. But in March 2015, a landmark High Court ruling put a total ban on markets being held in the town’s Market Place (once a bustling weekly market), following a single judicial challenge which questioned if banning traffic from the road on market days was legal. It wasn’t as if the decision to hold markets there in the first instance was in any way recent – Cockermouth got its market charter in 1221, during the reign of Henry III!
One-off events like the Taste Cumbria food festival can still take place, thank goodness. The 2015 event brought 10,000 people into the stricken town in the first weekend after the floods – 8000 more than anticipated – giving retailers a much-needed boost pre-Christmas. (Not that this stopped people complaining because traffic was ‘grid-locked’ – talking of ‘unintended consequences’!)
Yet, despite being a market town without a market – by definition then, no longer a ‘market town’ – I note the marketeers (and Wikipedia) still describe it thus. Someone needs to let the PR people know.