Come along to hear Guy Benson (Head of Planning and Development, Regeneration and Development Directorate, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council) talk about the Challenges of Planning from a local authority perspective.
Most of us live in a world of buildings; they are all around us and a part of the landscape. It is important to us therefore that they should, as far as possible, be attractive to look at, well designed and suitable for their purpose. To be surrounded by ugly monstrosities can be very depressing and can affect our quality of life. Many buildings will also carry memories for us; a school, place of work or a church where we were married, for example. Some are of historic interest or add character or beauty to their area.
For these reasons buildings may have an importance beyond their practical use, or if no longer required for the purpose for which they were originally constructed.
Newcastle-under-Lyme Civic Society does its best to highlight buildings which it believes are of significant merit to be worthy of preservation for the enjoyment and education of future generations, and lobbies to protect them if they become under threat from development. We are not always successful, sometimes practical considerations overrule sentiment, but in many cases we are listened to.
In addition to this, we have also inaugurated a scheme by which, in active co-operation with Newcastle Borough Council, we make bi-annual awards to encourage and reward examples of good design and workmanship for new developments, both commercial and residential, and tasteful refurbishment of older properties. If you know of any such construction, completed during the last two years, which you feel should be considered for such an award, please let us know.
Now is the time to consider nominating a building or landscape project that exhibits good quality design and execution within the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme. For further information see below or contact us at email@example.com
There has been a planning application submitted (16/00933/FUL) to demolish the former Savoy Cinema in the centre of Newcastle and to build an 11 storey block of student accommodation in its place. This site is in the Newcastle Town Centre Conservation Area, adjacent to our iconic Guildhall and in close proximity to St Giles Church.
The unsympathetic height, mass and design of the proposed building is unlikely to compliment or enhance the centre of our market town which consists mainly of three storey Georgian / Victorian buildings.
The Civic Society is strongly objecting to these proposals.
If you feel that this proposed development will detract from the character, ambiance and domestic scale of our Town Centre Conservation Area we urge you to make your views known too.
For further information visit –
publicaccess.newcastle-staffs.gov.uk and type Savoy in the search box
Architect’s impression of the new Public Services Hub
Newcastle-under-Lyme is essentially a small mainly Georgian/Victorian market town.
The town centre is a Conservation Area encircled by a dual carriageway ring road. Within this confined area are three main roads, High Street, The Ironmarket and Merrial Street. Many of the buildings in the town centre, now converted into shops, bars banks etc. were originally built as houses and are of domestic scale of two or three storeys. To fully appreciate the town’s heritage it is necessary to look above some inappropriate shopfronts and admire the upper storeys of the handsome buildings.
There are a number of large supermarkets situated outside the town centre that draw trade and footfall away from smaller traders.
There are fortunately still some buildings of architectural merit in the town but redevelopment in the 1960s removed some significant buildings, including the Municipal Hall in the Ironmarket, and replaced them with “modern” buildings that are in conflict with the style of neighbouring properties but at least are of a similar scale.
The Ironmarket is arguably the most attractive road in the town centre. It is a broad, largely pedestrianized, thoroughfare. Many upper storeys have changed little over the years and retain their original character and diversity. Old photographs show the dominance and majesty of the Municipal Hall that once stood proudly adjacent to the Queen’s Gardens. Demolished in the 1960s it was replaced by the current library.
If the plans for a new Public Sector Hub are successful, the library will move to the new building and be confined to a reduced floor area.
The current library building will become surplus to requirements. Its future is uncertain.
The Queen’s Gardens are the green heart of Newcastle’s town centre. Many consider this part of Newcastle second only to the Guildhall in reflecting the character and ambiance of the town.
At present the garden’s backdrop is the very attractive Victorian former St. Giles’ and St. George’s School building.
It has been proposed that this school should be demolished and replaced by a four storey Public Services Hub.
Architect’s impression of the Public Sector Hub
This development is within the Town Centre Conservation Area.
It is difficult to envisage this development sympathetically complimenting the character and ambiance of our Victorian/ Georgian heritage.
Even on a brief visit to Newcastle town centre one can observe developments that have enhanced its appeal and others that have marred its beauty and character.
The area around Red Lion Square retains some of its Georgian/Victorian heritage but York Place, built in the 1960s, now looks dated. Beyond the square there is an area which awaits development where a supermarket has been demolished. Currently it is used as a car park and this area, together with the current site of the Civic Centre facing Merrial Street, is earmarked for retail development and student accommodation.
Merrial Street has a number of interesting buildings including Wilton House, the former Conservative Club, The Ebenezer Schoolrooms and the former police station which now stands empty facing an uncertain future.
The current Civic Centre may not be the most beautiful building in town but it is a good example of the architecture of its time.
The Guildhall is the iconic landmark building in Newcastle. This building has had a chequered recent past. It was left to deteriorate after an unsuccessful period when leased for use as a public house but has recently been renovated, refurbished and brought back into public use as a public access point for council services. Once again its future may be uncertain if the proposed new public sector hub is built elsewhere in the town.
The area adjacent to the Guildhall in the High Street was demolished in the 1930s and replaced by Lancaster Buildings. This “new” building is a good example of architecture of its time and has recently become a Grade II Listed Building.
Commendably the facade of the Castle Hotel was substantially retained when the site behind was redeveloped and the new Roebuck shopping centre frontage compliments the street view and respects its neighbours.
Behind High Street in Market Street, Mellards Warehouse has been restored and refurbished to a very high standard and serves as an excellent example of sympathetic updating of a building to meet today’s needs.
Castle Walks, which extends from the bus station to the Ironmarket, consists of new build shops of two storeys with varying roof levels that have been carefully designed to compliment the surrounding area.
The south side of the High Street between Friars Road and the Grosvenor Roundabout has little to commend it as it consists largely of characterless utilitarian buildings. The north side of this road retains some of its Victorian feel with a mixture of different frontages, roof levels and architectural features and details.
At the end of the High Street there is an attractive sunken garden within Grosvenor Roundabout and across the ring road stands 1 London Road, a modern block of flats that many consider an inappropriate and out of place development.
This scheme aims to promote and encourage good design and workmanship in new buildings, refurbishment of older buildings and landscape schemes with the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme.
This year we received eight nominations:
One nomination for new residential buildings
One nomination for new commercial buildings
Two nominations for the refurbishment of commercial buildings
Four nominations of landscape schemes
Judging took place on 3rd October. The judging panel consisted of the Conservation Officer and Councillors of Newcastle Borough Council, architects, planners and members of Newcastle Civic Society.
The Society’s thanks go to the judging panel for giving up their time and to all those who nominated projects.
The following three projects will be presented with awards by His Worship the Mayor, Councillor E. Boden at the Civic Offices on 5th December.
The Orchard, Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme has been awarded a winner’s plaque for good design and workmanship in the new residential buildings category.
Mellard’s Warehouse, Market Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme has been awarded a winner’s plaque for good design and workmanship in the refurbishment of commercial buildings category.
Keele University Day Nursery, Keele has been awarded a Certificate of Commendation for good design and workmanship in the new commercial buildings category.
The Civic Awards Scheme, promoting and encouraging good design and workmanship within the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, takes place every two years and we hope that in 2015 there will be even more nominations which can be made by anyone who identifies a project they feel merits consideration.
By Griff Rhys Jones,
by permission of Civic Voice and the National Trust
A few years ago, standing on a bridge, overlooking a motorway that enabled people to roar across Glasgow at ninety miles an hour (at enormous cost to architecture and quietude) I was proudly told by a charming Civil Engineer that the desecration I was witnessing had been achieved by just seven planners.
Later that week, surveying the bosky splendour of Prince’s Street Gardens, I found out that the same fate had been narrowly avoided for Edinburgh, by the work of just seven concerned and determined activists.
Thank God for those people.
Nimbyism is good. Nimbyism is hugely valuable. If you do not look after your own back yard, who do you expect to do it for you? The State? The non-governmental authorities? Your neighbour?
There may be martyrdom required, particularly if the interests involved are driven by big nobs with lots of ambition, but go for it. Here in Bloomsbury, the local Camden Civic Society and the Bloomsbury Group have been roundly abused for questioning the grandiose empire-building of the British Museum authorities. In newspapers and letters they were told they ought to know what’s good for them. The scheme will go ahead. But at least the locals modified what was a badly conceived plan.
The museum is still going to knock holes in the north wall of the Great Court. It’s OK, apparently, because its only a hundred or so years old. They would not countenance a similar cavalier approach to even the humblest shard of its precious artefacts, but will forever disfigure the historically important monument that houses them. Beats me.
Now I admit I am conflicted here. I long to see the Museum expand and extend. I want it to have extra exhibition space. But I also feel for the local groups. They have been defeated. Perhaps they will take it to heart. However, if they have lost a big battle, let us not forget what they do as a matter of routine. These are people who will prevent ugly air-conditioning units being plonked on the front of Georgian terraces, or alert us when developers try to stick too many flats into a limited site. Or stand up against rampant new advertising hoardings. They repulse the every day degradations that can quickly ruin any area.
I also fervently support the people of Mistley, who are justifiably outraged that a property man has stuck a long, ugly nine foot high chain link fence across their ancient quay. (I have seldom encountered such a dreadful abuse of the law.) I support the Hadleigh Council and the local folk who want to stop a Tesco dragging traffic into this peaceful Essex town by building a superstore on the water meadows that back onto their river. I want to be out leading a protest against the National Grid’s plans to run a second swathe of pylons across the beautiful countryside to the west of Ipswich. I salute local action. Let voices be heard. Join up. Stand up. Take part. Speak out.
New legislation is en route to allow governments to drive though more grand projects under the guise of emergency and to avoid local complainants like me. But most of the “urgent need” to put in new infrastructure has been caused by the long term dithering of those tasked with planning for it. The politicians had to decide decades ago, and they did not. Now they tell us that we must stand aside because it is “vital”. Hasty, “emergency” action to build indiscriminately sited wind farms and quick fix power stations lessens the value of life for all of us now and for generations to come. The appearance and quality of our countryside and urban environment is a matter of our future happiness. Those who stand up for their own backyard are reminding us that we live in a small country. This back yard belongs to all of us.
After all, it was urgently necessary to build those great sweeping motorways into the heart of towns fifty years ago because of a doomed theory of commercially driven “centralism”. Now we are beginning to see that the green, effective cities of the twenty-first century should be a series of sectioned villages, where we work and live and play, with shops and workplaces intermingling in attractive medieval street plans. The immediate future wants the motorcar banned. It is cities that avoided those earlier emergencies that will thrive. The wheel turns. It always does. The best laid plans of mice and men often become unsightly leftovers. Be proud to be a Nimby.
Contributed by Mr Ron Redgewell
As we go to press, the Public Inquiry is taking place into Tesco’s planning application to nearly double the size of its store in Trent Vale. Fellow member, Paul Farrelly, MP, succeeded in convincing the Secretary of State to ‘call in’ Stoke-on-Trent Council’s decision to approve the application, thus enabling a Planning Inspector to review the case and make recommendations to the Minister on the application. The enquiry was held over five days in the Stoke-on-Trent Council Chamber. In advance of the enquiry the Secretary submitted the following to the Inspector in the context of a ‘letter of objection’ to the store’s enlargement on behalf of the Society.
The intention is to change the store from a traditional, predominately grocery supermarket, to what is in effect a ‘department’ store. The intention being to move into the non-food market where the profit margins are higher by taking trade away from the Newcastle Town Centre.
Background to this application is one where the Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Planning Development Committee approved the application by the narrowest of margins, 5-4. This approval was against advice from City Council officers and specialist retail consultants, against the views of the local North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership and counter to representations by Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and the advice of its officers.
Recent legislation, “impact test”: we understand the legislation that came into force in the Spring means that developments such as that proposed by Tesco at Trent Vale must pass an “impact test”, to show that a new store or extension responds to unmet demand without harming consumer choice, the local High Streets and environmental concerns. We are aware that Tesco plc, made some 28 planning applications in the period prior to the new legislation coming into force, in the full knowledge that many of these applications would fail the “test”!
We strongly feel that this application fails the “test”:
(1) As it will draw non-food trade away from local high streets.
(2) Create a demand for more traffic movement, as there is not a public transport hub nearby, as is the case with Town Centre, High Street and Stoke.
(3) It will severely disadvantage the elderly and disabled through lack of public transport.
(4) There has been little or no reliable evidence that there is a strong demand from the public for this development.
Contributed by Dr Angela Drakakis-Smith
Parks appear to be on the mind of the Newcastle Borough Council (NBC) of late. The Queen’s Gardens and the Queen Elizabeth Gardens were due for a makeover, as were the Brampton and Thistleberry Parkway – the latter being not so much a park as a landscaped walkway. Plans and applications for funding were made for the first two and plans are currently being drawn up for Thistleberry Parkway.
Whilst it is important that parks and parkland are maintained to a high standard by local authorities, and the NBC seem to have succeeded in this so far, there is a difference between a park and a funfair. This issue needs some debate. For example should a park provide every possible amenity that the heart might desire – seats, lighting, picnic tables, green gyms, sculpture parks, ice cream stands and public lavatories to name a few? Or should they be aesthetically pleasing green backdrops in which people can freely create their own leisure activity and exercise their minds and bodies? If people want to sit in the park then there is nothing to stop them bringing their own blanket or folding chair. Whilst formal seating is fixed the blanket and chair can be moved to follow the sun/shade. Both can be folded up at the end and taken home (along with the litter) with no harm being done to the landscape. Are these the parks of the future – where people start to take some responsibility for their leisure rather than have this dictated to them by the powers that be?
Unfortunately, neither the Queen’s nor Queen Elizabeth Gardens were successful in attracting funding to their applications. Both plans appeared overly fussy and wanting to fill any available space with ‘things’. Fancy entrances and railings appear to be de rigueur at the moment! Sometimes less can be more. Unfortunately, too, it seems, that residents were called in at the last minute to support these applications. Possibly another reason for their failure. Indeed, those applying for funding appear to be out of touch with the requirements of the funders. These applications have gone back to the drawing board and the Civic Society have asked to be more involved with the process.
In the meantime the Thistleberry Parkway is being threatened with ‘things’. The play areas has already been established and although it is unusable during wet weather, – the area floods – the children seem to enjoy it. Residents did warn against this flooding, no-one heard! And these are expensive mistakes.
So where are we at with the Borough Council’s parks? Do the NBC actually know what people want/need/would like from a park? Should we find out before plans are even on the drawing board? The Civic Society would welcome your ideas, so step out and step forward. We are all ears!
A planning application has just been submitted to the NBC for the Castle Motte within the Queen Elizabeth Gardens This will entail the construction of a viewing platform and information boards, the removal of trees from the mound and new entrance gates and mounds. This is a somewhat sensitive application since the motte is a listed site. Also there are protected species of fauna and trees. An added complication is the removal of trees rooted in the earth which is the motte. If these are removed, what remains of the original motte?