Dear Reader: Strange ways of local demoracy + RAOB on the move

A personal column by Graham Chalmers

Friday, 13th October 2017, 5:47 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 1:03 pm
Inside the historic Grove House in Harrogate - until recently the national home of the RAOB.

A step forward for small towns?

Knaresborough Mayor David Goode looked like a man with a lot on his plate when I met him in a nice new café off the town’s Market Place.As well as he might. In addition to being in a public role were you’re expected to say ‘yes’ to everything, he’s also a town councillor and a borough councillor.But the purpose of my visit concerned, perhaps, this hard-working but still smiling civic figure’s hardest task of all.For the past four years he has been leading a working group of fellow town councillors, local business owners and local residents to come up with Knaresborough’s first-ever Neighbourhood Development Plan.No, it’s the not been the easiest - or sexiest - of missions, the mayor explains to me with great patience as I sip on my coffee, but the end result could be significant.Should Knaresborough’s first Neighbourhood Development Plan pass its final remaining hurdles, the document will carry legal weight in any future dealings on planning between the town council and its bigger brother down the road, Harrogate Borough Council.It’s been a herculean task to get to the point where the public is now being asked to give its feedback online - as first set out in a new initiative by the Government in 2102.And did I mention that this convoluted exercise in enhancing local democracy still has to win the approval of the borough council and, indeed, central government itself?Nothing worth having, it seems, comes easy, though, fortunately, the Knaresborough mayor does seem to wear those chains of office lightly.

The royal order of Antelopes, sorry, that's not right...

The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.

My younger, less wise, self would have laughed at the RAOB’s very name but the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes are worth taking seriously.The two local figures in one of Britain’s oldest charitable organisations sitting opposite me in Harrogate the other week were bright and purposeful but looked a little crestfallen.The problem was where they were sitting - in a modern suite of offices off East Parade, not their stunning long-time home of Grove House off Skipton Road.The move has been a recent one, made for good reasons.But it has clearly hurt to have had to give up one of Harrogate’s grandest locations.For 110 years the building first made famous by one of the town’s greatest sons, Samson Fox, served as the headquarters of this international order.Fox may have turned this magnificent Grade II* listed manor house into a cross between a stately home and a private laboratory but in the hands of the RAOB it offered a welcome home to needy orphans.Having met them in person I’ve got a feeling the RAOB are unlikely to be in their current home forever.You don’t survive as an organisation for nearly 200 years without having the ability to overcome whatever changing times may throw at you.

The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.