To The Developer
The Banbury Civic Society fully supports Build! and the Brighter Futures Project. We are delighted that these two historic buildings are to be brought back into use as shared ownership homes.
We nevertheless have reservations concerning these applications, principally because No.1 West Street is both locally Listed and a very prominent 'Landmark Building' within the Grimsbury Conservation Area, whilst Juniper Court is Listed Grade II and lies within the Banbury Area.
As CDC applications involving important historic buildings, we are very surprised that the achitects acting for the Build! project do not once state in either application that they have taken advantage of the excellent in-house conservation expertise that Cherwell has to offer. This seems a dreadful shame as, from the obvious cut-and-paste and one-size-fits-all design approaches to detailing and landscaping, it appears that the architect / agent acting for Build! has less than extensive experience in the field of historic buildings. We would guess that their experience perhaps lies more in the field of social housing.
There is little intrinsically wrong with the applications as submitted. We are more than a little concerned at the prospect of the Listed building having additional windows cut into it and at the prospect of part of the frontage of No.1 West Street being rendered (there are better ways of making old and new bricks match (e.g. http://www.brickimage.co.uk/brick_tinting.htm )), but in general our concerns are simply that there is inadequate detail about the proposed apperance of existing and proposed windows etc, there are no drawn plans of the proposed hard and soft landscaping and boundary treatments and that there are worrying statements about the generic use of steel hoop railings and brick paviors that indicate that these self-build, shared ownership homes may end up with the rather institutional apperarance of most social housing. We would expect no less from a large RSL such as Sanctuary, but it would seem to be contrary to the objectives of Build! if its shared-ownership homes end up looking like sheltered housing.
Whether or not the homes end up looking institutional is perhaps largely a matter for Build and their clients. Nevertheless, these are planning applications made by Cherwell for important buildings in conservation areas. As such, the public has a right to expect that the finished products act as exemplars of good design and conservation practice, notwithstanding the clear benefits of bringing these neglected buildings back into beneficial use.
We do not ask that these applications be refused. We simply request that CDC's conservation staff be involved at the very earliest opportunity, that the details of the applications be amended as appropriate following their advice, in consultation with the applicant, and that suitable conditions be applied regarding external details, finishes and landscaping. The end result should be no more expensive, but would be a far greater credit to all involved, not least CDC.
I trust this is helpful
(Rob Kinchin-Smith, Acting Chairman, Banbury Civic Society)