At the same time the new regulations for streets and planning were laid out, themselves very laudable and necessary for a modern town, two things were happening. First, there were the ‘regulations’ which Gregson later complained about. The Town’s appointed surveyor had to approve all plans and changes, for a fee. Approved builders had to be used ( approved by the surveyor, and as it happened, co-incidentally owned by the surveyor). Completed work then had to be signed off by the surveyor ( for a fee). The surveyor also received a handsome fee. The surveyor was John Foster senior, member of the Select Improvement Committee. And in yet another huge co-incidence, also an architect employed by the council and surveyor. Conflict of interests did not seem to make an appearance. Foster later designed the buildings of the West side of the Square, and the toolshed in the centre. Second, and at the same time, the council started selling long term leases to the lands in Moss Lake Fields. The tenants who invested in these included… Earle, Gregson, Crosbie ( from the Select Committee), and unrelated people like Hollinshead, Dawson and Littledale. Who co-incidentally sat on the Corporation Council or were former mayors ( or both). In addition to his own profits, Foster had estimated ( according to Gregson) that in addition to improving the town, the new regulations would net the council some £60,000 ( around £4million today).
It had been clear for some time which way the wind was blowing for expansion, and much like Moore a hundred years before, twelve lessees speculatively bought the plots of worthless flood-risk fields all around the Square from the suddenly magnanimous and naïve council between 1763 and 1796, for a period usually of three lives and twenty one years ( which usually lasted around 70 years). Should the council decide to expand that way, these leases would become much more valuable of course. Fortunately, as most of the lessees were either on the council or connected to it, they would no doubt be reasonable about it. As you’ll see in the next chapter, the negotiation of releasing leases and re-letting the land (to many of the same people) turned out to be quite financially rewarding.
One of the first actions of the Select Improvement Committee was the ordering of investigations into sewerage. And as water runs downhill, gravity again took a part in determining that the top of the hill, just within the town boundaries (present day Crown Street) would have to be where any plans started. Right where the worthless undrained fields fortuitously purchased recently by the councilmen stood.
It took a number of years for the powers of the Select Improvement Committee to grow to the stage where they could put forward an acceptable solution for ‘town planning’ the expansion beyond Hope Street and Mount Pleasant, but once they did, it was a doozie.