Newsletter April 2009
Planning - 11/12 Church Lane

Current view of 11/12 Church Lane

Current view of 11/12 Church Lane

The Society was very disturbed to hear that CDC has approved an application to develop 11/12 Church Lane. The buildings are on the ‘local list’ and lie at the heart of the Banbury Conservation Area. When queried, a CDC planning officer responded ‘as the buildings are not listed and are not within the primary shop frontage of the town, the change of use and loss of the shop frontage was difficult to resist. If a reason to refuse on this ground was to be made, I am of the opinion that it could not have been sustained on appeal’.

It is a matter of concern that applications of this nature are still being considered under officer’s delegated powers (i.e. not by Committee) when some individual planners remain of the opinion that historic buildings within a conservation area cannot be protected unless they are either listed or within a ‘primary frontage’.

Buildings such as this, and areas like Church Lane, provide the authentic grain and texture that gives a historic area its real character and historic depth. They are very fragile and easily destroyed or disfigured by ill-considered redevelopment. Given the parallel regime of listing, the protection of such fragile, unpresuming buildings is normally the very reason that conservation areas are designated in the first place.

We regard this approval as injurious to the town’s historic character and damaging to the Council’s attempts to regenerate the Banbury ‘lanes’ area through pedestrianisation. We simply cannot afford to lose such historic assets in the town’s most historic quarter.

The position of the Council is particularly depressing given the Council’s recent successes at appeal, following refusals of similar proposals by the Planning Committee. The Planning Inspectorate’s ruling regarding an appeal against the Council’s refusal of consent for the development of 44 West Street sums up the position perfectly:

‘The principal characteristic of the conservation area is the survival of a group of streets of diverse architectural styles that has historical importance... The existing house is very small-scale compared to its neighbours... is a simple building of no intrinsic architectural merit, narrow with brick walls and a pitched slate roof. It is not particularly prominent... It is part of the grain of the area, in which the mix of buildings makes a distinctive contribution to the character and appearance... Accordingly, I find that this small building is important to the character and appearance of the conservation area and it should be preserved... For this reason alone, I conclude that the appeal should not succeed. To permit demolition would be to disregard the significant historic interest that led to the designation of the conservation area as well as the duties imposed by the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and guidance in Planning Policy Statement 15: Planning and the Historic Environment which is reflected in Policies C22 and C23 of the Cherwell Local Plan as well as in Policy EN40 of the Non-Statutory Cherwell Local Plan.’

It is a pity that the guidance provided by the Planning Inspectorate was not heeded in this instance. We can only hope that the current economic crisis stalls this development long enough for the Council (or the applicant) to reconsider the dismerits of this consent.

Current elevation of 11/12 Church LaneCurrent elevation of 11/12 Church Lane

Proposed elevation of 11/12 Church LaneProposed elevation of 11/12 Church Lane, which in the words of applicant’s design statement ‘tidies up the appearance of this end of Church Walk (sic)’