TrustNews June 2019
It is becoming evident that the way in which we traditionally have developed land could become redundant thinking even in the short- term future. There are many influences around that promote such thinking ,the most important of which is climate change. However other influences are:
1. One in seven of the working population works from home. As much as 95% of U.K. businesses employ fewer than 10 people. This fact has nearly doubled in the past twenty years and continues to grow fast.
2. Shopping habits are changing dramatically reducing the amount of floor space required.
3. The way in which we commute is in question and the way we move around is fiercely debated.
4. The health system is faltering, and there is a constant debate as to how health care is provided. Could more healthcare facilities be provided locally to reduce the need for people to have to travel to hospitals for basic treatments?
5. Modern communication: how is this now and in the future likely to affect the way we think and live? Technology has already influenced us all in a very short period of time and is likely to accelerate its influence over the way we operate.
Winchester is currently in an interesting position: it has developable areas in the centre, as well as to the north of the City.
So how are these assets best developed, bearing in mind climate change and my list of potential social impact assessments?
I would think that housing is probably the key, not as we build them today, but buildings that are far more flexible. The current way in which housing development is approached by all concerned is archaic and not fit for the way we should be living. Layouts are inefficient and a poor use of high value land. Current housing layouts are socially destructive and provide little sense of community.
Perhaps we ought to stop thinking in terms of ‘housing schemes’ but ‘community schemes’ instead, so that the idea of community is at the heart of the design thinking.
Communities should embrace living areas, incorporate a variety of work spaces, provide various leisure facilities, etc. Community schemes would obviously vary depending on inner or outer city development. Cars are socially disruptive and a radical re-think needs to be considered in the way we move around and use vehicles.
So my fundamental question is: is the brief for development proposals on the Carfax site, the central Winchester area, sub-urban housing sites, likely to be fit for purpose in 25 years’ time?
Planning Appraisal Group
Our Panels have certainly been kept busy during March and April when they reviewed nearly 80 applications. Many of these have been for relatively minor modifications but those which were not are noted below.
One to which we objected, but which was allowed, was a proposal to develop the land adjacent to Stanmore Primary School. We objected to the design and layout of detached houses, some only with two bedrooms. However, outline panning permission had already been approved and we have learned one lesson from this which is that much more attention has to be given to outline applications. In general we feel that much more attention should be paid to issues of design, layout and the efficient use of land available and have been considering how to raise the profile of these issues.
We objected to plans for demolition of Prospect House on Magdalen Hill (formerly the Station Master’s house for Chesil Station). We felt that if an historic asset were to be demolished a much stronger justification should be provided and that any replacement should fit well into the Conservation Area context. We also had concerns about the numbers of trees which might not survive. In general we are becoming more concerned about the loss of trees in Winchester, since this does affect the overall impression of the city, so the PAG chairs have agreed that proposals to fell trees will be added to their list and that Winchester should be urged to adopt the policy, in place in some other cities, that if a tree is to be felled two replacement trees should be planted, possibly on another site but within the same ward.
We also objected to part of the application to build in the grounds of Goodworth House. The Trust is supportive of the level of local consultation on this scheme and the applicants’ evident willingness to incorporate the conclusions of the consultation exercises into the proposals, something which we would encourage to happen more frequently. Clearly there would be considerable benefits to local residents, the school and the public realm generally and that is reflected in the levels of local support already manifested. So the Trust supports in principle the layout, number and the group value of the vernacular style of dwellings 4–8. But we expressed serious reservations concerning Block 1–3 fronting onto St Cross Road and the likely impact of this large neo-classical block on Goodworth House, no.51 St Cross Road and the general street scene. It was felt that the block was falsely grandiose, too large in height and bulk, and that the neo-classical detailing was alien to the character of this end of St Cross.
The Station Approach application was reviewed by two PAG panels whose comments fed in to the Trust response which is included as a separate item in this newsletter.
We seem recently to have objected to an unusually high proportion of the reviewed applications. There are several in Weeke– 49 Stoney Lane and various Alfred Homes developments around the site of Meadowlands. There has been an increase in requests to remove conditions previously attached to approvals and of requests, made by developers, to demolish existing houses and replace with relatively dense developments. The Trust is not in principle opposed to dense development and has in fact argued that for new developments, such as Barton Farm, the density should be increased. But on many infill sites developers are trying to cram too much onto a single small site without really paying enough attention to the character of the neighbourhood, the layout of the site (including the orientation of the houses), and the quality of the buildings themselves. Often it seems that the motive is to make the maximum profit (which from a developer’s point of view may be rational) rather than to deliver good quality but still affordable housing that works for the neighbourhood. For a planning system to be justified it has to balance out the competing interests and provide a counterbalance to the natural inclination of developers, or others seeking to maximise their profit from land, which is often itself overpriced. Cramming as many (just) detached houses onto a site as possible makes little sense; better to make them well built and designed town houses with fewer external walls and thus better heat insulation. The orientation of buildings is also important if one is to have usable gardens, maximal passive heat gain from sunlight in the winter and minimal gain in the hottest part of the summer, but with effective roof space for solar panels/hot water heating. Of course houses also need to be attractive and imaginatively designed. The likely needs of residents should also be considered since older people’s needs are different from those with young families and the facilities required for life in the City centre are not those required for developments on the edge of the City or in villages.
PAG in conjunction with the Trust will be trying out measures to increase engagement with the planning system, as the next few years are going to be very important for the future shape of Winchester. Details of these will be announced both on the web site and in the next issue of Trust News.
Members and Public Comments
The Trust welcomes informative comments from local people, but must avoid being influenced by vested interests or personal matters. Individuals who believe their interests are being threatened by proposed schemes are advised to contact their Ward Councillors, who have more influence over such matters. If you would like to see details of Trust objections to planning applications and their fate, please go to the monthly PAG reports on our web site.
I am pleased to report that 25 new members have joined the Trust in the year to 30 April (when for historical reasons, our subscription year ends). If you know or meet anyone who is interested in joining the Trust, please encourage them to look at the Trust website (click on “Join Us”) or contact me on 01962 851664 or firstname.lastname@example.org
chesil street station
On Friday 1 May 1885 there was a grand opening of Winchester Chesil station which was then the southern terminus of the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway. From photographs of the occasion it must have been a cold day as there is a covering of snow over the surroundings. Photographs also show that the station master’s house (visible in the photograph, on the hill behind the station buildings) was complete and was painted in the G.W.R. livery, which much later was changed to the green of the Southern Railway.
The bricks for the tunnel, signal box and station master’s house were almost certainly supplied by the Pinewood Brick and Tile Company, based on the Pinewood estate north of Newbury, for a railway line was extended to the works presumably to supply materials for the construction of railway buildings.
The station master’s house, now called Prospect House and under the threat of demolition, is no architectural gem, but it is not only part of Winchester’s history but of railway history as well, for it was built in the style developed for this railway line from Winchester to Upton, Upton being the last station before the northern terminus at Didcot.
It is interesting that on the original line survey, population numbers were noted, Winchester’s being 16,000. The DN&SR never reached Southampton as intended, but in 1891 the line was extended over the Hockley viaduct to connect with the London and South Western Railway near Shawford.
Trust comments on ‘Station Approach’
This application (19/00601/OUT) on behalf of Winchester City Council is for an area east of the railway station known as the “Carfax site”, currently occupied by the former registry office, the Gladstone Street public car park and two private car parks. It is for a mixed-use development involving the erection of buildings up to 5 storeys from street level, lower ground floor level and basement to provide up to 17,972 m2 of office space and up to 1,896 m2 of mixed-use space including potential retail, restaurant/cafe, bar and leisure uses, refurbishment of the old registry office, associated car parking in basement (up to 135 spaces) and minimum of 156 cycle parking spaces. The application also proposes important changes to traffic routing in the public roads to and from the station. Because of the importance of the site, the Trust’s comments submitted to the Council are reproduced here in full. The comment period for the application has expired and the application is likely to go before the WCC Planning Committee in June or later.
This is an outline proposal, which means that illustrations cannot be taken as indicative of what will actually be built on the site. The parameter drawings attached to the application are however definitive and do indicate the maximum amount of development that would be allowed on the site in terms of total floor area, car parking and building heights. There is also no guarantee that the actual developers will use the same architects as those that have produced the plans thus far.
The Trust welcomes the fact that the Old Registry Office building is to be preserved. It is also pleased to see that the need for active frontages is recognised (other than along Gladstone Street) along with the needs of pedestrians. It acknowledges that this scheme is an improvement over that which was previously proposed and that interesting architectural features are included. However, the fact remains that too much is being demanded of the site leaving the architects with the impossible task of trying to meet these demands while also producing buildings which will fit the context.
The Trust objections, itemised below, stem from this over-arching problem. We have seen no financial justification for the considerable increase in the number of square metres of office space planned over that which is set out in previous WCC development/design briefs, some of which covered both this site and the Cattle Market site.
Problems have been identified with the follow aspects of the scheme proposed:
1. number of car parking spaces
2. scale of the buildings (height and mass) and their impact on the area
3. appropriateness/overall impression as an important gateway to Winchester
4. plans for pedestrian routes, cycle provision and public realm (including removal of trees)
5. management of traffic flow in the station forecourt and surrounding streets
1. Given the exceptionally sustainable location next to the railway station with its parking as well as the proximity of the Tower Street and Cattle Market car parks, the Trust believes this is a great opportunity to provide minimal car parking rather than the small reduction proposed over the current capacity. A significant reduction would also help in addressing the traffic management problems around the station (see 5).
2. Our objection is not simply to the height of the buildings but to the footprint over which this height is to be permitted, especially on the frontage to Gladstone Street. The stepping down of the roofline toward Sussex Street is welcomed. As proposed the buildings would dwarf the station building, as well as the old Registry Office; even the Hampshire Records Office would look relatively small in comparison.
3. As the application acknowledges, the Station is an important gateway to Winchester and development here needs to reflect the very special and historic nature of the City. As proposed the development is contrary to adopted policies such as the Local Plan Part 2 with its desire “to protect and enhance the special character of Winchester”. WIN 6* in particular requires that any development respects the scale of the existing and adjacent residential properties as well as provides a fitting entrance to the town centre by enhancing and extending the public realm. It should also be noted that this site borders on the Conservation area and is visible from a variety of locations. We therefore do not agree that, as stated in the Visual Impact Assessment, ‘The proposed development will have a low magnitude of impact on the overall character of TCA3, resulting in a potentially minor/moderate beneficial effect as the proposal will enhance the south-western gateway to the character area.’ Or that ‘Overall the magnitude of impact on the character of TCA4 is considered to be negligible and result in a negligible/neutral effect.’†
4. The proposed pedestrian route via a passageway between 5 storey buildings to Sussex Street, across to Tower Road and Tower Street with the multi-storey car park alongside, would give the visitor a very poor introduction to Winchester, unless this can be alleviated in some way to overcome the ‘canyon effect’. The loss of the trees is regrettable, however we consider that a reasonable compensation would be to specify trees of at least a similar or even greater number elsewhere in Winchester.
5. The Trust is not convinced that space for taxis, drop offs/pick ups, service and delivery vehicles and bus services has been adequately taken into account in the plans.
6. Since Winchester City Council has the double role of developer and planning regulator for this site, it is imperative in our view that past practice should be adhered to and that a major development such as this should receive independent Design Review. This is recommended in the National Policy Planning Framework where it says that the outcome will be a material consideration. Bodies such as CABE or the SE Regional Design Review Panel have been used in the past. It would be far more cost-effective to have the review done at this outline stage of the planning than to wait until a final planning proposal is submitted.
The Trust therefore OBJECTS to this application.
* WIN 6 is the policy in Winchester District Local Plan Part 2 which sets out requirements for the Carfax site.
† TCA3 and TCA4 are “townscape character areas” identified in the application, north of Stockbridge Road–City Road–North Walls and respectively east and west of Worthy Lane.
Meadowlands: an everyday tale of demolition and redevelopment in the ancient capital of England
The City of Winchester Trust, as often happens, was asked in April to view some changes to a plan for housing. The application on the council website was headed Meadowlands, Stockbridge Road, and was minor amendments to unspecified work. This set alarm bells ringing for people who knew the house, on the corner of Woodpecker Drive, set back from Stockbridge Road behind wide lawns, and with wonderfully harmonious Arts & Crafts proportions in red brick and tile.
It turned out, however, that the application, filed in February this year, was not for Meadowlands itself, but for changes to a plan by McCarthy & Stone for a 61-bed retirement home on a nearby site. It must be said it was not well received by the architects and others on the consultation panel.
Meadowlands itself, however, then turned out to have been the subject of an earlier application, in 2017, when demolition consent was granted by officers’ delegated powers, never having been seen by a planning committee. This emerged from two letters to the Hampshire Chronicle, in late March and early April, the second of which had a photo. I immediately thought I should try to get the building listed, to protect it. If it’s too big for current occupiers it could be divided into two or three, but should not be demolished.
I contacted Andrew Napier at the Chronicle, who kindly put me in touch with Caroline Hayes, the writer of the second letter, who has known the house since the 1950s. She had written that Meadowlands had been the home of early 20th century romantic novelist Ethel M. Dell. As one reason for listing is a building’s connection with a significant person, I set about finding out about Ethel M. Dell and also trying to establish when and by whom the house was designed. What follows is an account of guesswork and wild goose chases, of attempted links and frustrated hope.
Several hours in the Hampshire Record Office revealed that the house was not nearly as old as I had assumed. It looks like something from the William Morris/ Philip Webb era, that is, from the last third of the 19th century. In fact it appears to have been built in the late 1920s or early 30s – it makes its first appearance on the OS map that was surveyed in 1932. The plan of the house then is just as it is now, as seen on Google Earth. Unfortunately that is about all the Record Office revealed, although I did find that after Ethel M. Dell’s death in 1939 it was bought by Herbert Johnson who had commissioned Marsh Court, down the road, from Lutyens 35 years earlier. Meadowlands looks to me not unlike several of Lutyens’ small-scale works.
There is nothing to be found about Meadowlands’ architect or whoever commissioned it. It has similarities to Salters – the two plots were once adjoining, before large slices of both were taken off and sold for development. I prodded the archives to see if the houses might share an architect, to no avail.
Salters was designed in 1928 by G. Gordon Stanham, 1857–1931, not a household name but who appears to have been a very successful City of London architect who studied in his father’s practice. He was a Common Councillor in the City of London, and designed for the City of London Brewery Company and for the Orphan Working School and Alexandra Orphanage, said by the Shoreditch Observer when reporting on its annual festival dinner at the Savoy (no irony, I’m sure, intended) in 1911 to be the oldest charity of its kind in the Empire. He was chairman of the Streets committee; when the same newspaper reported in 1913 on its annual dinner one of those present was one John Stopher. It’s interesting to wonder if there is any relationship to the Winchester Stophers, father and son, both architects at much the same time.
When Stanham died the architectural press barely noticed. He received a few lines in the RIBA Journal and a note with his name and date of death only in the Builder. His City work looks to be standard Edwardian baroque. If his late work mostly resembled Salters – that is only a guess as there is so little on record - he had been left far behind by the modern movement.
The Lutyens Society reports that they can find no connection between Lutyens and Stanham, although Lutyens went on designing brick buildings on a similar domestic scale until his death in 1944. His reputation was secure, so being unfashionable was unimportant.
Unfortunately being unfashionable has doomed Meadowlands, whoever designed it and whoever it was built for, to ignoble redevelopment.
The response from Historic England was that Meadowlands is “a late example of an Arts and Crafts type house, which is conservative and largely derivative in design; the elevations do not form a particularly strong or cohesive composition and do not have the necessary design quality for listed houses of the period; there is no claim that the fixtures and fittings are of special interest, and no mention of any particular features are referred to in the 1949 sales brochure provided with the application.”
So that’s that. Ethel M. Dell is similarly dismissed as a best-selling author and her connection with the house as of local interest. Ethel M. Dell had, according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, nine million followers, and was the subject of jealous derision from Rebecca West, George Orwell and other litterateurs. She never sought to appeal to their readerships. One of her books was, at the time of researching, for sale on eBay for over £300.
And there is no mention in the HE decision of the Herbert Johnson connection because the HE officer in charge went on leave before I could prove it and send it in, and it appears no-one else picked up his urgent casework, although I had made it clear at the outset that demolition consent had been given. Only when the wrecking ball is poised nowadays will HE consider most listing applications.
I’m told there are moves by developers to acquire much of Woodpecker Drive, built in the grounds of Meadowlands. (This may be the McCarthy & Stone plans.) I shall not be defending their architectural or aesthetic merit, although there are trees worth protecting. But a similar move to flatten Salters would not surprise me in the least. As the setting and context of these lovely, craftsmanlike, houses is compromised, they become harder to defend. If these houses for the rich were replaced with houses that ordinary people could afford, it might matter less, but large detached houses, even in cramped grounds, will be unaffordable to most. The losses will not solve Winchester’s real housing problems.
At least it’s an easy journey to Stockbridge, where there are still independent shops and considerable character. Although there are designs on the meadows there too …
Summer Walks Programme 2019
Thursday 30th May to Thursday 15th August
1. St. Cross Meadows
30th May Thursday at 18:00
Meet outside the Bell Public House, 83 St Cross Rd, Winchester SO23 9RE
Susan Simmonds Hampshire & Isle of Wight Trust Education Officer - Winchester
Note: The walk will include footpaths so it will not be suitable for those with mobility problems and stout footwear is recommended.
2. Thomas Micklam, Winchester’s lost Victorian architect
6th June Thursday at 1800
Meet at Water Lane on the green between Durngate and Blue Ball Hill.
Judith Martin Trust Member
3. A Sally round the Soke – from Magdalen to Michelin
13th June Thursday at 18:00
Meet outside the Tourist Information Centre, Winchester Guildhall, High St, Winchester SO23 9GH
Colin Cook Winchester City Registered Tourist Green Badge guide
Note: The walk will include steep paths and steps so it will not be suitable for those with mobility problems and stout footwear is recommended.
4. Water and waterways
20th June Thursday at 18:00
Meet outside the City of Winchester Trust, Heritage Centre, 32 Upper Brook St, Winchester SO23 8DG
Richard Baker Trust Member
5. The Enhancement of St Thomas Street
27th June Thursday at 18:00
Meet outside Lloyds Bank, 49 High St, Winchester SO23 9BU
Andrew Rutter Retired Winchester City Council Conservation Officer and Trust Member
6. Walk along the Minster Streets
4th July Thursday at 18:00
Meet at High Street end of Little Minster Street
Tony Sexton Trust Member
7. Winchester City Mill - building resilience in an age of climate and urban change
11th July Thursday at 18:00
Meet outside the front entrance to the City Mill, 174 High St, Winchester SO23 8EJ
Stuart Divall Civil and Environmental Engineer, SFK Consulting, Ric Weeks, Mill Manager
8. Aspects of current conservation in Winchester
18th July Thursday at 18:00
Meet at the City of Winchester Trust, Heritage Centre, 32 Upper Brook St, Winchester, SO23 8DG
Louise Dandy Historic Environment Team Leader, Rachel White Historic Environment Team Leader, Winchester City Council
9. Trees & plaques along the River
25th July Thursday at 18:00
Meet under the Kings Gate, Kingsgate Street, Winchester for a stroll to the City Mill
Margaret Barber Trust Member
10. Canon Street area 100 years ago
1st August Thursday at 18:00
Meet at the Southgate Street end of Canon Street
John Pilkington Travel writer and broadcaster
11. Middle Ages market on St. Giles Hill
8th August Thursday at 18:00
Meet next to the Chesil Rectory, 1 Chesil St, Winchester SO23 0HU by the pedestrian crossing
Graeme Stevenson Trust Member
12. West Downs
15th August Thursday at 16:00
Meet at Winchester University, West Downs, Romsey Road - Enter through the pedestrian gate to the left hand side of the West Downs 1 construction site and make your way to the left hand turnstile around to the rear of the main West Downs building.
Rob Jackson Project Architect, Design Engine Architects
Note: Earlier start date and maximum of 10 attendees. Maps will be issued nearer the date. Please provide your shoe size on registering for the walk! PPE will be worn.
Details and conditions for the summer walks:
A. Timings: All walks will start at 18:00 promptly unless stated otherwise.
B. Donations of £5 to the Trust are requested from each person on each walk.
C. Booking: Strongly advised to secure a place to avoid disappoint. Contact the Heritage Centre no later than midday the day before each walk. Email secretary@ cityofwinchestertrust.co.uk or telephone Winchester (01962) 851664. Generally maximum 25 attendees for all walks unless stated otherwise.
D. Walk 1. Additional donation of £4 for Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust requested from each person. Wear suitable footwear for a variety of surfaces. Maximum 20 attendees for this walk only.
Exclusion of liability: Neither the guide of each walk nor the Trust nor any of its members shall be liable for any injury, accident or damage to person or property (including theft or other loss) during each walk to any person taking part in a walk whether a member of the Trust or not.
Building Better, Building Beautiful
All-Party Parliamentry Group for Civic Societies Parliamentary meeting held on Tuesday 7th May 2019 in the Jubilee Room, House of Commons.
This was arranged by Civic Voice to present interim results of their survey in response to the BBBB Commission and to ‘move the conversation about building homes away from confrontation, into one of collaboration.’
Craig Mackinley, MP for South Thanet and Chair of APPG for Civic Societies, opened the debate by stating the need for 3 million new homes and outlining some of the issues demands of such building entails, i.e. the conflicts of interests concerning land, costs, numbers, affordability, materials and beauty, and how we must learn from the past when local councils allowed dreadful aesthetic mistakes in planning development. Kit Malthouse, MP for NW Hants and Housing Minister, took this further enthusiastically declaring how much he enjoyed encouraging building. He had discovered, however, that the prevalence of nimbyism and resistance to change were obstacles difficult to shift because bad, ill-considered developments had made local communities nervous of any further spoiling of their areas. His was clearly a political stand to meet the need for 300,000 new homes on a sustained annual basis though he was insistent that good design, improved technical processes with sustainability should guide developments so these aspire to become the Conservation Areas of the future. The discovery that new homes proved to be least popular because often such dwellings had little detail and variety in the use of architectural language, and, not least, poor construction led him to state he had confidence in the latest National Planning Policy Framework which allows more local assertion for the styles of locality and affordability for the area, citing Morris Homes’ new development in Stamford, Lincolnshire, as a good example of this.
The CEO for Grosvenor Britain and Ireland, Craig McWilliam, spoke on restoring public trust in place-making and developers by encouraging closer collaboration between commercial interests and those of communities since where this fails to meet expectations it inevitably leads to a deterioration of relations. He felt public trust must be developed from the outset of projects and that new ways of working together should be found to ensure that a balance across interests will aid harmony. Matthew Carmona, Chair of Place Alliance, followed this by an examination of the local councillor perspective on high quality design. Because councillors tend to be woefully ill-prepared to meet such responsibilities design quality is undervalued by councils as it is not taken seriously enough. Often they fail to see that better design can make development more acceptable to communities and where this does not occur it is further compounded by the standard practices of developers (who are manufacturers), the inflexibility of local highway authorities, the loss and lack of design skills in local authorities, and overdevelopment conflicting with local character leading to mono-culture development. Local authorities need to be bolder in rejecting poorly designed projects and insist on better local and neighbourhood plans that respect character, choice of materials, green spaces, prevailing densities, history and architectural quality, and to seek good local advice from the professions and civic societies.
From the few questions permitted due to the time limit (the MPs had already left after Craig McWilliam’s contribution and this further curtailed the nature and number of possible topics which brings into doubt the efficacy of an APPG beyond it being an opportunity for parliamentary statements rather than discussion), the answers given may be summarised thus:
The Raynsford Review on Permitted Development Rights and a re-appraisal of the current planning system was referred to and informed that this is presently being considered. It was generally felt, however, for expediency the existing system should be made to work better by insisting on greater control of developments. It was remarked that local authority planners were overwhelmed by departmental constraints and to help improve matters civic societies were urged to engage with their local councils. Suggestions were made that architects become developers and councillors trained so to avoid the intransigent ‘follow my leader’ approach in decision-making. The importance of infrastructure was raised and this must be enmeshed with developments from the outset rather than being an add-on, and should come through the local plan.
Sarah James, Civic Voice Membership and Policy Officer, gave a review of the interim findings from the members’ survey conducted earlier, stating “The findings will demonstrate to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission, and the Government, that Civic Voice members want to move towards a more collaborative planning system to tackle the challenges of poor-quality design and build of housing.”
• 86% stated that ‘beauty’ is important to how a development looks;
• 72% stated that new developments do not need to be identical with neighbouring buildings, but the design, scale and context all need to be given serious consideration in the decision-making process;
• 68% stated that if the aesthetic appeal or beauty of a development was given more focus, it would receive more community support (the Civic Design Awards prove this);
• 67% stated modern buildings can be beautiful;
• 42% stated they want training to understand the benefits of using design codes and style guides.
• Communities want greater support to engage with the design agenda, with Building for Life, Design Review and Neighbourhood Planning stated as areas that Civic Voice members want more training and support.
Joan Humble, Chair of Civic Voice, had announced these findings by saying, “We need to rebuild public trust and confidence in the planning system. For too many people, planning is about confrontation and not one of meaningful participation. This must change. Developers, councils, communities and civic societies must all be prepared to work together in a collaborative and meaningful manner to remove confrontation and increase certainty.”
Trust Trip to the City of London – April 2019
On 12 April, 24 members and friends made their way through narrow cobbled lanes to Middle Temple just off Fleet Street where we were given a fascinating guided tour of the history and development of the Inner and Middle Temples. Originally established by the Knights Templar, the order of crusading monks founded to protect pilgrims on their way to and from Jerusalem in the 12th century, the area was based round the Temple church consecrated in 1185 by the patriarch of Jerusalem and designed to recall the holiest place in the Crusaders’ world: the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Eventually the Knights Templar fell out of favour and the area was leased to two colleges of lawyers, whose rights were enshrined in perpetuity by a Royal Charter in 1608. Our tour encompassed Middle Temple’s Elizabethan Hall with its magnificent double hammer-beam roof and many of the courtyards and gardens which provide such a peaceful oasis between the pounding traffic of Fleet Street and the Embankment.
We then went across Fleet Street and through various narrow alleyways to Doctor Johnson’s House in Gough Square. This is a sturdy, plain, early Georgian house and presents the life and work of the great lexicographer – perhaps in more detail than we had time to absorb!
Our final visit was to 2 Temple Place just off the Embankment where William Waldorf Astor spared no expense when he commissioned John Loughborough Pearson to design a lavish estate office in neo Gothic style during the 1890s. The interiors are a riot of gilding, marble, carved mahogany and stained glass and once again we had a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide who greatly enhanced our enjoyment and told us many anecdotes about Astor and his collections. 2 Temple Place were also holding an exhibition to mark the bicentenary of John Ruskin which was so well attended that it is clear that the great Victorian is well and truly back in fashion.
We spent a whole day in a very small area of the City of London – perhaps 15 minutes walk from one side to the other – and saw an extraordinary variety of buildings with widely differing histories and with the added bonus that for most of the time we were in a pedestrianised environment.
Petersfield meeting of civic societies
Graham Brown, Chairman of the Petersfield Society, initiated this meeting on 20 May of civic societies in the Southern Region in order to have an opportunity to share common interests and concerns. Ian Harvey and Sophie Mason of Civic Voice had also been invited so that they could explain their organization (some societies were not members), the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission and to contribute to our discussion by offering advice from a national perspective.
Keith Leaman and I attended. Fortunately, two scribes were ‘volunteered’ to keep exhaustive minutes that would be later collated for a report to follow (as this will indubitably be a fuller and more accurate account, I shall resist the temptation to pre-empt their report). Attendees were about 30 from around 20 societies and we were split into 5 discussion groups so our exchanges of experience, views and ideas could be more effective and manageable. This worked well insofar everyone was able to have a say and also give a thumbnail sketch of their society. It became apparent that CWT is more fortunate than some as by comparison small societies were struggling to stay solvent and maintain membership. One society appeared to be in terminal decline – a warning against complacency, perhaps!
Much of the open discussion following highlighted how local and national issues such as planning procedures, conservation, climate change and sustainability, green infrastructure, etc, etc, were common problems and by sharing one might find solutions to help deal with Local Authorities. Civic Voice emphasized how important such collective engagement could be as the national membership of CV is over 75,000. Such a figure can become a significant lobbying force with the Government, and Ian Harvey proudly cited the recent grant of £44 million towards High Streets as an example of their influence.
Keith and I considered this had been a worthwhile exercise and one that engendered camaraderie invaluable for the smaller societies. Also it was felt by members present that out of this body a useful network could be established for the future – though this would be no mean task.
Wadworth’s brewery and Crofton beam engines
We had an educational and enjoyable April day in Wiltshire, and were blessed with good weather and excellent guides at both venues.
In 1875 an enterprising young farmer, Henry Wadworth, bought a brewery in Devizes, made a go of it, and ten years later moved the firm to its existing, more imposing, premises in the town centre. Beer sounds simple to make – consisting of only four ingredients, of which by far the largest by volume is water – but we learnt that in practice, producing it safely, consistently and in large quantities is not straightforward. We tasted the barley, smelt the hops, viewed the vats, learned some splendid new words (eg. ’wort’ and ‘sparge’), met the sign-painters (the brewery’s pub signs are all done by hand) and two beautiful dray-horses, and then sat down to eat tasty pies and sample seven different ales (well, some of us did); perhaps predictably, most of us would have voted for the old favourites, IPA and 6X.
A few miles along the Kennet & Avon Canal is another marvel of Victorian engineering, even older than the brewery: the pumping station at Crofton. The two beam engines there (the older built by Boulton and Watt in 1812 and still in working order) were designed to move large quantities of water uphill from nearby Wilton Water to the summit pound for the canal, forty feet higher up. They are magnificent and well worth a visit.
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