A History of Local Government in Ten Buildings: Rossall Point Observation Tower and Pendarren House

We’re approaching the deadline for our Space Race competition, but there’s still time to submit entries to our growing list!

Your submissions have raised some debate in the LGiU office about the nature of local government space. We’ve realised that the blog series’ title, ‘A History of Local Government in Ten Buildings,’ is a bit of a misnomer. Essex’s Hadleigh Park mountain bike course demonstrates the value of outdoor areas defined by their lack of buildings. Such public spaces fulfill environmental, social and public health functions that should not be overlooked. So, perhaps it’s time to rename this series, ‘A History of Local Government in Ten Spaces.’

As we thought more deeply about outdoor spaces, two particular entrants came to our attention. Wyre Council’s observation tower at Rossall Point and Haringey’s Pendarren House are buildings that facilitate the appreciation of the surrounding natural environment.

Rossall Point Observation Tower stands in the sand dunes near Fleetwood on the Lancashire Coast. From the two viewing decks you can look out across the Irish Sea and get spectacular views of the Fylde Coast. There’s also a live camera feed, so you can check out the view for yourself right now.

The observation tower was built to house Wyre Council’s Countryside Service and to provide an education centre allowing the public to explore the coastal environment. Rangers are available for guided walks and seaside activities, and the tower is a great bird watching spot. This building helps the local community and tourists to appreciate Lancashire’s coastline. Wyre Council does not own Rossall Point’s surrounding environment, but the authority’s physical asset facilitates the exploration of a beautiful open space.

Haringey Council’s Pendarren House performs a similar role, but has a particular quirk. Pendarren House lies near Lllangenny in the Brecon Beacons, approximately 170 miles from North London.

Haringey has provided outdoor residential courses at Pendarren House since 1972. Groups from primary and secondary schools; further education colleges, Scouts and Guides, and businesses frequent the centre. While staff design personalised courses after consultation with clients, most courses tend to focus on the themes of personal and social development, and environmental awareness. While Haringey organisations get priority booking, groups from other locations also use the centre.

Pendarren House provides access to the Brecon Beacons, and visitors venture beyond the 16-acre site to explore local rock faces, caves and waterfalls. The centre allows members of Haringey’s community to travel beyond the council boundaries.

The idea of councils managing spaces outside their official boundaries had never occurred to me before, but the more I think, the more sense it makes. For starters, Rossall Point facilitates interaction with a space that falls beyond the boundaries of Wyre Council, encouraging visitors to look out across the Irish Sea. If councils only valued what lay within their boundaries, we would get very little done! Just as LEPs encourage economic activity beyond a specific local authority, education centres should encourage us to think beyond our immediate environment.

What is more, Haringey is an urban authority. The only way for Haringey to run an outdoor exploration centre is to choose an alternative location. Last time I checked, Hornsey High Street didn’t boast many waterfalls! And I don’t see why Haringey students have any less right to explore the great outdoors than those living in Powys.

In using the centre, Haringey Council thinks beyond its artificial boundaries and works alongside other communities. Haringey’s example provides a springboard for considering how to overcome the wider restrictions of geographical boundaries on councils’ cultural and educational endeavours.

Rossall Point Observation Tower and Pendarren House demonstrate the value of working creatively with the natural environment and have raised some interesting questions. Do you have any examples of your own?