Questions raised over lighting up of Wainhouse Tower to mark events

Lighting up famous Calderdale landmark Wainhouse Tower to mark events or support organisations has become a familiar sight.

By John Greenwood - Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 15th July 2021, 5:00 pm
Wainhouse Tower in Halifax
Wainhouse Tower in Halifax

However, Calderdale Councillors asked for more details about procedure and asked who makes the decision as to what is chosen.

Lighting up the tower has occasionally been controversial, with Coun Sophie Whittaker (Con, Rastrick) last summer being critical of it being lit in support of black lives matter, that decision being defended by the council’s Chief Executive, Robin Tuddenham, and Leader of the Coluncil, Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town).

The authority’s Head of Legal and Democratic Services, Ian Hughes, told members of the council’s Governance and Business Committee that in keeping with many councils the ability to make displays had developed over the years using technology.

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Members agreed the council’s Civic Advisory Group should review the criteria for which the 275 feet tall tower could be lit and the committee itself review a list of events annually.

Coun Roger Taylor (Ind, Northowram and Shelf) had asked for the committee to consider the item so councillors could understand the protocol behind requests.

Mr Hughes said not all requests were accommodated as there was a need to assess the significance and sometimes national criteria is used.

Coun Taylor felt it was decided by too few people and more wider consultation would be welcome.

Mr Hughes said requests were usually fed through to the council’s buildings management directorate but decisions were taken in liasion with senior officers and the council’s communications department – the vast majority of requests did no go to the Chief Executive or council leader.

Coun Steven Leigh (Con, Ryburn) said any final go-ahead should probably go to the Chief Executive, and/or the Leader working in concert, so decisions were known at the highest level, he said.

He believed the process was fair and equitable but the issue was worth considering.

“Elsewhere I think there are some overtly political uses of these devices that I wouldn’t like to see coming into the way we do things in Calderdale,” he said.

Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) suggested the council’s Civic Advisory Group look into it and consider publishing an annual list that councillors could then feed their thoughts into the process.

“There’s a bit of thought needs to go into which ones we, as a borough, want to support, resonate with our communities and align with our aims and ambitions,” he said, adding the overtly political use of symbols and flags did not excite him very much.

Coun Mike Barnes (Lab, Skircoat) said it was more about ad hoc events – it was right the process should be transparent and he was comfortable with officer involvement that would make the process less “political”.

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