Council fails to see the joke over Berwick 'laughing stocks'

A poster criticising powers that be was left on an historic landmark in Berwick in protest at its neglect

Berwick Stocks
Berwick Stocks

An ‘offensive’ poster has been left on an historic landmark in protest at its neglect.

The note was left on the Berwick Stocks, a listed replica of the 17th century originals, in frustration at the poor state they have been allowed to fall into, despite one authority acknowledging action was needed “over a year ago.”

The poster states “Fight apathy or don’t” and labels the site “the Laughing Stocks.” It calls it a “Berwick Town Council production” in association with NCC, the acronym widely used for Northumberland County Council but in this case referring to the “Northumberland Clown Collective.”

The man behind the note last night said it was also inspired by dismay at a perceived lack of action from the authorities to improve Berwick, in particular in relation to lack of projects delivered by the town’s Portas Pilot fund.

The town council said it had previously offered to replace the stocks, despite not owning them, but said it had been told this would be difficult given their listed status.

The county council meanwhile defended the performance of the Portas scheme.

The replica is a grade two listed building of stocks which a plaque above the site, beside the Town Hall, explains were first used in Berwick in 1604.

The poster was put on the stocks on Monday night.

The Berwick resident responsible, who asked not to be named, told The Journal he had attended a meeting of the town council over a year ago, when members acknowledged the replica needed addressing.

He also voiced frustration at what he deemed a lack of projects delivered by the Portas scheme, through which the town and county council have £200,000 for regeneration initiatives.

Last September, the county council said just £10,000 of this had been allocated, although it recently said £70,000 has now been invested.

The Journal has also recently reported how the town council has been beset by complaints and counter complaints over the Portas fund.

The man behind the poster claimed “nothing ever seems to get resolved” in Berwick.

“We are meant to be promoting tourism here and the town is beyond derelict and not being looked after.

“They (the stocks) have been left to the point where they have rotted and fell down. It is just a symbol of the rack and ruin the town is going to.

“They (councillors) are too busy fighting among themselves and nothing is getting done.”

Sue Finch, clerk to the town council, said the authority had removed the “rather offensive” poster having been told of it, on Tuesday.

She revealed the council had sought advice from English Heritage over whether action could be taken against the person responsible for “defacing an ancient monument”, but was told it could not be.

Mrs Finch said the council had offered to replace the stocks some years ago, despite them being owned by Berwick Guild of Freemen, but been told their listed status would make this difficult.

The town council now has other priorities, she added, although the clerk said she would put the stocks on a future agenda if asked to do so by a member.

Barry Rowland, executive director- place at the county council, said: “The council strongly believes that the Portas Pilot is a valuable project which has the potential to have a very positive impact on Berwick.

“We are pleased to be working with the town council and the local community to progress the delivery of schemes, and are confident that the arrangements for delivering the pilot are robust and will result in positive change for the town.”

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