Coventry Airport Gigafactory Public Consultation

Proposals for a Gigafactory at Coventry Airport have accelerated following the launch of a public consultation exercise.

The consultation seeks to understand the views of residents and the local community before a planning application is submitted in the coming months.

In February we reported the announcement that Coventry Airport was the preferred site for a West Midlands Gigafactory for the construction of vehicle batteries with Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport Ltd forming a Joint Venture partnership to bring forward a planning application.

The Faraday Institution, an independent research institution, estimates that a failure to build a UK battery supply chain could cost more than 100,000 jobs by 2040. A Gigafactory at Coventry Airport is predicted to generate at least 4,500 jobs directly, as well as tens of thousands more across the supply chain, and represent an investment of up to £2bn in the West Midlands.

Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, the consultation is being run online with multiple ways to engage with the proposals. More details on how to take part can be found at http://www.gigafactoryconsultation.co.uk

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member jobs and regeneration at Coventry City Council, said: “The launch of the public consultation today marks a significant step forward as we prepare a planning application for a Gigafactory at Coventry Airport. Coventry, at the heart of the UK automotive sector has access to talent, world-leading research centres, and a mature supply chain, all of which are critical to delivering a Gigafactory.

“I encourage residents and the local community to review the early proposals as we continue to work tirelessly to ensure that we secure a Gigafactory and the future of automotive production in Coventry and Warwickshire.” 

Andrew Bell, CEO of Regional City Airports, which own and manages Coventry Airport, said: “Coventry Airport is the ideal site for a West Midlands Gigafactory, and we are excited to support the local partnership as it brings forward proposals. Over the coming weeks and months, we will be working with the local community and others to ensure that the proposals deliver the maximum possible benefit to the area and region, and we encourage local people to take part in the consultation.”

For more information, visit www.gigafactoryconsultation.co.uk

Sluice Gates Remembered

The Coventry Society is a partner in Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Sherbourne Living Landscapes project. This project aims to reconnect the people of Coventry with the city’s river, restore the river for wildlife and complement the growing City of Culture programme linked to nature.

One fascinating story about the Sherbourne concerns the sluice gates.

Five steel sluice gates were installed by the City Council during the war to dam the River Sherbourne to create a water supply for firefighting. The scheme was approved by the Home Office as part of the city’s emergency fire precautions. The gates were supplied by Messrs Glenfield and Kennedy Ltd of Kilmarnock for a price of £2982 and installed by the Council’s own labour force in 1942.

The steel gates replaced previous temporary wooden dams, which had to be removed to avoid winter flooding. The steel gates were adjustable according to seasonal conditions. The gates were part of a bigger plan to secure water supplies for the city centre in the event of bombing raids or fires.

All the sluice gates were made out of steel girders with a large operating wheel (now missing) through a system of gears and chains it would lower and raise the sluice gate dam for when it was required to hold back water.  A steel ladder went up to the top were there was a walk way across the gates. It was lined with two hand rails which would have had chains or wire which are now missing together with a wooden planked walk way which also now gone.

A sketch showing how the counter balance and the sluice gate/dam works by Paul Maddocks

A campaign to save the gates was initiated by CovSoc Life Member Ralph Butcher, who lives close to the River Sherbourne at Whitley. In 1998 Ralph campaigned to preserve the sluice gate near London Road as a memorial to the city fire fighters who lost their lives during the blitz. Unfortunately the city council was not prepared to support the campaign and pointed out that the structures were not listed.

Shortly afterwards the sluice ended up being cut up and taken away after some youths were able to get the gate to drop a bit making it jam. City Council workmen came along and just took it away on health and safety grounds without checking or trying to make it safe.

Today there are just two of the five sluice gates remaining and these could be at risk as well. The remaining ones are at Harper Road and the Charterhouse Fields, the latter is on the Local List and therefore has some protection.

So the question is, should the sluices be protected or commemorated in some way as part of the Sherbourne Living Landscapes project? What would be appropriate? Plaques, Information panels, restoration, listing?

What are your thoughts?

Peregrines Delay Work on Spire

Photos by Chris Cox and Richard Bailey

The discovery of a peregrine falcon nest on the Cathedral tower has halted work on the Cathedral steeple. The nest contains a single egg.  

The work on the steeply relates to a crack discovered by steeplejacks that requires further investigation.    

In recent years the peregrines have been regular visitors to the city centre, and they previously nested on Holy Trinity spire as well as on buildings at Coventry University.   Peregrine falcons are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which makes it a criminal offence to kill, injure or take a peregrine.   Their nests and eggs are protected and the law also protects the birds from intentional or reckless disturbance at their nest sites.

The examination of the Cathedral spire must wait until the egg hatches and the chick fledges, so work may not finish until the autumn.  To avoid having to close the Ruins throughout the summer in order to comply with health and safety regulations, the Cathedral Chapter has agreed to erect a scaffolding collar around the base of the tower at a cost of £25,000.   Closure of the Ruins would disappoint the anticipated influx of visitors to planned City of Culture events, which would in turn reduce visitor donations.

The peregrine falcon is known for its diving speed of up to 186 miles per hour which makes it the fastest animal in the world.

This story is courtesy of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral, Chairman’s E news

City Model Finds a Home

CovSoc member Peter Garbett with his model at Central Libarary. Photo Andy McGeechen

Coventry Society member Peter Garbett has used his lockdown at home more productively than many of us. He has created a huge model of the City of Coventry as it was in 1509.

The model measures four metres square and includes all of the main buildings that were present in 1509. This was early in the reign of King Henry VIII and before the dissolution of the monasteries. Coventry was an important city at that time of its history.

The model includes the Benedictine Priory and Cathedral of St. Mary’s which dominated the city in medieval times. The city’s spires or St. Michael’s, Holy Trinity and Christchurch also existed as well as St. John the Baptist Church, Bablake Hospital and Ford’s Hospital.

The City walls and gates surrounding the main area of the city were in pristine condition, with the Charterhouse outside the walls.

As well as the city’s most famous buildings, the model also shows rivers, homes and even cattle. The model is all to scale, and gives a realistic insight to what our city was like at the time.

Peter retired as a Community Safety Officer with Coventry City Council and also worked for the Fire Brigade and as a DJ. Peter leads the hugely popular Visit Historic Coventry Facebook group.

Peter spent 800 hours working on the model – eight hours a day, seven days a week, for four months.

The model has found a temporary home at Coventry Central Library where it will be on view during May and June. You can now visit the library without making a booking.

Peter is still looking for a permanent home for the model.

Photo – Coventry Telegraph

Charterhouse Wall Painting Restored

The only surviving wall painting in a Carthusian monastery in England has been restored as part of that major conservation project at the Charterhouse.

A large wall painting depicting the Crucifixion which dates from c.1430 is one of three art works which have been meticulously repaired at the Grade I listed Charterhouse.

Historic Coventry Trust appointed medieval wall painting specialists The Perry Lithgow Partnership to carry out the work and a team of four has been on-site off London Road since March 1.

As well as the Crucifixion, an early 17th century fictive imitation tapestry and a further large mural from the late 16th century are set to attract visitors to Charterhouse, which is due to open in late summer 2021 during Coventry’s 12 months as UK City of Culture.

The painted sections of wall on the upper floors of Charterhouse have been cleaned, flaking paint has been stabilised and the new repairs have then been re-touched.

Mark Perry, of The Perry Lithgow Partnership, said this has been a fascinating project to be involved in.

“I first came to inspect the paintings in 2014 and so have been looking forward to working on their restoration for the last seven years,” he said.

“I think anyone who is involved in conservation would love to work on this project because it involves such significant wall paintings from the 15th to the 17th centuries.

“The earliest painting at Charterhouse depicts the Crucifixion in the centre with the Virgin Mary and St Anne on either side and several smaller figures in between. The main figures are very large and the painting would originally have covered the whole of the south wall of the monastery’s refectory. Due to extensive Post Reformation alterations to the building, only the bottom half now remains. This is the only surviving wall painting in a Carthusian monastery in England which means it is of national importance – it is one of the best pieces of Medieval art in the whole country.

“The Crucifixion is a really beautiful painting. Whilst much has been lost, large areas remain intact and in good condition, whereas a lot of medieval paintings are badly degraded.

“We don’t know who the artists were. There are very few wall paintings in England that have been signed or have historical documents related to their creation but the quality of the Crucifixion painting is extremely high. It is likely to have been somebody that was a well-known artist that came from the courts or a major religious centre somewhere in England.

“It gives a snap-shot of the building when it was a monastery before it was converted into a house in the 16th century and is a historical record of interior decoration at the time Charterhouse was built.

“The Charterhouse building itself is fascinating and when you have wall paintings as well, it is a real bonus. It is a building of which the people of Coventry should be rightly proud and it is an indication of how important a place Coventry was in medieval times.”

Ian Harrabin, Chairman of Historic Coventry Trust, said: “It has been fascinating to watch the wall paintings being carefully repaired and restored to their former glory. The colours are so much bolder now that years of grime have been cleaned off.

“Each painting is a historical record of a time in the city’s history and is a fantastic way to bring history to life for school children and the local community. I’m sure that the importance of the building will attract national and international visitors to Coventry particularly during UK City of Culture.”

There will also be interactive displays charting the site’s long history since its founding by King Richard II in 1385 as well as the recreation of part of the cloister and two monks’ cells set in the walled garden. The Charterhouse will be the focal point of the new 70-acre Charterhouse Heritage Park along the banks of the River Sherbourne – a country park in the heart of the city.

Historic Coventry Trust’s £8 million restoration of Charterhouse has been a partnership with Coventry City Council and major grants have been secured from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England and several trusts and foundations including Garfield Weston, Wolfson, Foyle and Historic Houses Foundation, Edward Cadbury and All Churches.