Long term members of the DBG will remember early Newsletters devoting a large amount of coverage to various casework items which were dealt with by committee members. A summary list of the approximately 150 sites covered appears under Publications/Casework Studies of this website and, until 1994, narrative coverage appears in the relevant Newsletter. In many instances, but not all, the Group’s views were instrumental in a conservation-led solution being achieved. Inevitably in some instances development pressures won; we live with the results.
In his Secretary’s report at the 2010 AGM Peter Child stressed the importance of our representations at Planning approval stage. He expressed concern that fewer planning applications seem to be coming to our attention and urged members to contact us if they are aware of inappropriate proposals. As a way of highlighting the issue we have introduced a new section of the website for Casework and plan to up-load individual cases, our representations, and, if appropriate, the subsequent decision taken. Because everything that appears on the website will form a part of the subsequent Newsletter, the information will have both more immediate access and an historical annual record. Please take an active part in making our views and efforts an effective part of the planning approval process.
DEMOLITION OF CASTLE PRIMARY SCHOOL, TIVERTON 16 /00352/MFUL
The Devon Buildings Group is an organisation founded in 1986 which seeks to research and to conserve Devon’s architectural heritage. The Group wishes to object strongly to the proposed demolition of the existing principal building at Castle Primary School in order to erect a new school building. The Group encourages the District Council to reject the proposal in favour of a scheme which will incorporate the original building, suitably modernised. In summary the Group believes that the existing building should be retained because:
* It is of considerable architectural merit in itself
* It makes a significant contribution to the conservation area
* Its demolition is entirely contrary to Mid Devon’s adopted policies
* It is a significant part of Tiverton’s history
* The economic case for its demolition and replacement has not been made
* The sustainability aspects of its demolition have not been considered
* The proposed replacement building is of inadequate architectural quality
The school building was completed in 1911 to accommodate the Boys and Girls Middle Schools, subsequently becoming Tiverton Grammar School in 1953. The grammar school moved out in 1977 and the buildings were then taken over for the current Primary School use. The architect was William Ashworth of Birmingham who designed a school building characteristic of the period in fine red brick with Bath stone dressings. It has a balanced south elevation defined by two pedimented projections flanking a central section on either side of which are lower sections containing the school entrances. The central section contains eight large sash windows on each floor designed to provide light and airy spaces within. The central section and the projecting gables have particularly fine stone dressings including wreathed surrounds to the circular upper windows, a panel with the Tiverton civic arms and a substantial stone cornice. The roof is crowned with an original cupola/louvre, lending interest to the roofscape of the building Despite unattractive modern accretions and alterations it remains an elegant and attractive structure. It is moreover a significant part of Tiverton’s history- a place where generations of Tivertonians spent their formative years and received their education.
We note that the building has been rejected for listing by Historic England partly on the grounds that it is not of sufficiently high architectural quality and partly because subsequent alterations to it have diminished its character. Buildings of this period have to be of especial merit to be judged listable so this is perhaps not a surprising decision. However non-listed status does not mean that a building is lacking in historic interest and, in fact, the building’s particular quality has been recognised by Mid Devon who both designated it as an Important Unlisted Building and in 2005 also extended the conservation area boundary to include it because of the contribution it made to the locality. Given this double recognition, a proposal to demolish it altogether comes as a shock since it flies in the face both of national conservation policy and specifically of the policies adopted by MDDC. In particular it is wholly at odds with COR Policy 2 Local
Distinctiveness: Development will sustain the distinctive quality, character and diversity of Mid Devon’s environmental assets through: e) the preservation and enhancement of Mid Devon’s cultural and historic environment, and the protection of sites, buildings, areas and features of recognised national and local importance.
Justification for the proposal is put forward (in the Heritage Statement) that it is impracticable to retain the building, but no estimated costs for its repair and modernisation have been included in the application on which a comparison can be made. It would seem quite extraordinary if it were not possible to bring the building up to modern standards within the enormous budget that is being offered. The complete loss of the embodied energy within the building which would result from its demolition is also being wholly ignored in the equation; the new building will no doubt be more energy-efficient but it will take many years before this compensates for the energy loss consequent on the demolition. No estimated life is given for the replacement building but it is very unlikely to be as long as the hundred years of the existing one, when the whole process will need to be repeated again.
The existing building makes a positive and attractive contribution to this part of Tiverton and its conservation area. The same will not be able to be said of the new building which (according to the proposal) is to take its place. This is no more that a large grey metal-roofed shed, faced with artificial stone, and studded on one side with brightly coloured panels (perhaps in the hope that the ‘dazzle factor’ of these will disguise its very basic nature). The design bears absolutely no relationship, either in style or materials, to the character of the surrounding area. In terms of its architectural quality, it will be a hopelessly inadequate replacement for the existing building and will not, in any way, make a comparable contribution to the conservation area. In this respect it again falls foul of Core Policy 2: Development will sustain the distinctive quality, character and diversity of Mid Devon’s environmental assets through a) high quality sustainable design which reinforces the character and legibility of Mid Devon’s built environment and creates attractive places,
The Devon Buildings Group strongly objects to this application and encourages the District Council to reject it in favour of a scheme which will incorporate the original building, suitably modernised.
Peter Child, Secretary, Devon Buildings Group.
Former and ongoing casework
Exeter: Smythen Street [r/o 102-104 Fore St].
This building, a 17th century Exeter townhouse, was investigated and recorded by Exeter Archaeology about ten years ago in the process of its careful repair which was carried out with grant aid. It is unlisted but is on the Local List. The current scheme extraordinarily represents virtually a total demolition and rebuild of the previously conserved building. The DBG has objected.
Update April 2011
The DBG objected to this application as it involved the almost complete removal of a much repaired but extremely historic 15th or 16th century building at the rear of the delopment facing onto Smythen Street. This building is included within the Exeter Local List of buildings of historic interest. The replacement building was in an entirely modern idiom . We believed that the City Council had taken on board our objections and, although we were given no opprtunity to see them, understood that revised plans had addressed the conservation issues. In fact these revised plans, although incorporating internally some of the historic features which were previously to be destroyed, still completely remove the existing street elevation of the building which was carefully reconstructed in 1999 following a detailed analysis of its historic importance by Exeter Archaeology. Moreover we understand that this reconstruction was actually grant aided under the Conservation Area Partnership shared by English Heritage and the Council! We strongly regret another development which will reduce the historic quality of the conservation area and the city.
Black Torrington church cobbling
The cobbled path leading up the parish church in Black Torrington is a fine example of this traditional Devon practice which survives in many of its churchyards. However in 2008 the PCC considered it to be a safety hazard and to be a deterrent to church-goers so proposed to cover it with a semi-permanent new surface. The Group objected both on the grounds of the loss of the fine cobbling and because they felt that there was an available alternative route. After much debate the Chancellor of the diocese ruled in 2010 that the path could be covered but only with a reversible material and subject to its condition being monitored. He also required the replacement of the very ugly railing which had been erected without permission alongside the path and to which the group also objected.