KNUTSFORD’S Local Plan may have sparked interest in the town’s future - but in some ways things never change.

Protecting the town’s heritage and striving to find solutions to traffic woes are two of the major goals in Knutsford at the moment.

Yet it seems that a prominent minister was encountering the same problems in the 19th and early 20th century.

The Rev George Payne was Brook Street Chapel’s minister from 1890 to 1930 and was well known as an accepted authority on all things Knutsfordian.

He was a keen historian and wrote various books including two about Elizabeth Gaskell and her connection to the town.

In his obituary, it said: “He delivered many lectures on old Knutsford and on his later visits to the town expressed regret that Knutsford was losing the atmosphere of ‘Cranford’ made famous by Mrs Gaskell.”

“People are still saying that now,” said The Rev Jean Bradley, Brook Street Chapel’s current minister.

“A lot of people fear that the atmosphere and character of Knutsford is changing.

“There’s always been people that really care about the town and he was one of them.”

George also thought it was a big mistake when plans were dropped to construct a ring road from Manchester Road to Toft which he said would have taken through traffic clear of the town.

He once told the Guardian: “One would have thought that people would desire to preserve some of the old and treasured places in the country but apparently that is not so.”

Beulah Cornes, a volunteer for Brook Street Chapel, added: “If he was here to today, I think he would be absolutely mortified that traffic is still charging by the chapel.

“I thought his experiences were relevant while the Local Plan is going on.”

George, a former honorary secretary of the War Memorial Hospital, also helped to establish Knutsford Public Library in 1904.

It was only free to Knutsford residents while Bexton, Toft, Ollerton and Tabley residents had to fork out to borrow books and use the resources.

And it was a very strict environment as a Guardian reporter was once reproved for not folding newspapers exactly and replacing them in their exact spot.

George also set up a literary society but it had to disband in 1941 due to the wartime conditions.

Jean added: “As minister you care for your congregation whatever the place but I do think Knutsford has something very special about it.

“What’s encouraging is that you get these people who don’t speak on behalf of themselves but on behalf of the community and that’s encouraging whatever the century.”

George was born in 1865 in Kidderminster and died, aged 84, in Banbury in 1950. He is buried at Brook Street Chapel.