Newsletter April 2009
Planning consultation - Crown House

Crown House: view from South West

The RPS Group, on behalf of Axial Properties, has invited the Society to make pre-submission comments on an application for a large, 3-storey retail building, intended to replace the derelict office building between Matalan and Bridge Street. The proposals involve the demolition of most of the existing ‘black-and-white’ building fronting Bridge Street and the creation of two undivided 2000 sq.m retail units and a 1700 sq.m premium unit for an ‘anchor store’. This Society would, of course, welcome the long-overdue redevelopment of the derelict 1970s office building on this site and is relatively comfortable with the modern idiom proposed for the elevations.

We have nevertheless expressed concern over the loss of all but one bay of the early-20th-century black-and-white building fronting onto Bridge Street. This former pub, once the ‘brewery tap’ of Banbury’s famous Hunt Edmunds brewery, is neither listed or locally-listed, but it is little-altered, attractively detailed and dates to before the removal of the cattle market from Bridge Street to Midland Marts in the 1930s. Bridge Street remains a key part of the Banbury Conservation Area, despite having been robbed of much of its historic character when Castle Quay was built. We believe that the loss of historic buildings on the street’s south side will further erode what remains of Bridge Street’s historic character.

We also expressed concern at the effect of further ‘big retail’ in the lower town, given the obvious effect of Castle Quay on retailers in the ‘old town’. We are of the opinion that a development such as this would be better sited on the under-utilised Farm Foods / TK Maxx site, where more dynamic retail would revive the 'old town', with High Street becoming an active thoroughfare between two major retail nodes.

In terms of the overall massing of the proposed building, we have expressed concern that it does not address the visually weak corner between Bridge Street and Cherwell Street, the building instead presenting a tall and blank elevation to the existing used car lot and petrol station that blight the key eastern gateway to the Conservation Area at the Bridge Street / Cherwell Street crossroads. We also stated that the building’s large and unrelieved roof would be too tall and alien to the area’s medieval grain, dominating the retained buildings on the south side of Bridge Street and views from Upper Windsor Street and from the higher parts of the conservation area to the south and south-west.

We hope that our concerns will be addressed, in part at least, in the planning application which is expected to be lodged with CDC shortly.

Crown House view from North West

Crown House: view from North West