Questions over St Michael’s plans after Listing

 

The two-storey rope walk: “a rare survival”

Buildings proposed for demolition under controversial plans for the St Michael’s Trading Estate have been Listed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, on the advice of English Heritage.  The move raises doubts about the future of the planning applications conditionally recommended for approval by West Dorset District councillors last year.

The existing Grade II Listing for the former warehouse building at 40 St Michael’s Lane has been extended to cover the adjoining buildings at the rear, including the distinctive two-storey rope walk and the Lilliput building.  Buildings are Listed for their special architectural or historic interest, and are legally protected from demolition without specific consent.

Councillors on West Dorset District Council’s Development Control (Planning) Committee went against the advice of their specialist officers in June 2012 when they voted to support an Outline application for redevelopment of the trading estate and an application for Conservation Area consent to demolish a number of buildings on the estate, including some of those now Listed.

The consents have not yet been issued by council officers, pending negotiations over a series of conditions.  The Listing of the Lilliput and neighbouring buildings may mean that the applicants (Estate landowners Hayward & Co.) will be required to submit new applications.

The West Dorset District Local Plan states (Policy SA18) that “Development requiring the total or substantial demolition of a building listed as being of special architectural or historic importance will not be permitted apart from in very exceptional circumstances and, in any case, not unless genuine attempts have been made without success to continue the present use or to find a suitable alternative use for the building.”

The application to List the buildings was submitted to English Heritage in late 2012, together with applications to List the Bridport Industries Building, the Stover Works Building, the Red Brick Café, and the covered rope walk at the north western end of the Estate.  These other buildings have not been selected for Listing, following a thorough assessment by English Heritage specialists, who acknowledged their local importance historically, but considered them to be of less than national or regional significance.

The buildings adjoining 40 St Michael’s Lane have been Listed as “an important survival associated with a highly-significant phase in the development of Bridport’s net and cordage industry”, and on the grounds that “the buildings define the very essence of the net and cordage industry that developed in Bridport and show interesting incremental changes relating to production”, while “the two-storey covered walk is an especially rare survival”.

The full Listing entry can be seen at

http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1287500

The Bridport Area Development Trust has welcomed the Listing, and although disappointed that the other buildings have not been selected, recognises that these already have significant protection, being designated as locally important within the Bridport Conservation Area.

The BADT was one of many objectors to Haywards’ planning applications in 2012.  The trustees have indicated a willingness to work in partnership with the landowners and others on an alternative approach to the restoration, regeneration and development of the St Michael’s Estate – an approach which they argue “would promote longer term regeneration and investment opportunities as opposed to the short term residential approach currently being pursued.  The character, layout and buildings on St Michael’s Trading Estate, recognised as nationally significant in the history of the local industry, are an important part of this heritage which the BADT believes would be crucially diminished by the existing plans.”

The BADT understands that the landowners and West Dorset District Council are considering the implications of the Listing decision.

Shock Council decision on St Michael’s

In a shock decision on 21 June 2012, West Dorset District Council’s Development Control Committee approved Hayward & Co.’s controversial current planning applications for the St Michael’s Trading Estate.

The Stover Building - scheduled for demolition

The two applications given approval (subject to a number of conditions), were an Outline consent for a redevelopment incorporating the creation of 105 residential units, and a Conservation Area application for the demolition of twelve commercial units including several buildings registered as having local significance.

Committee members voted to reject their own planning officers’ recommendation to refuse the applications.  Case officer Andrew Martin’s detailed and carefully considered report gave eight separate reasons for refusal and cited eleven Local Plan policies which he stated would be contravened by the proposals.  In reaching their decision, according to the Minutes of the meeting, members omitted to give any reasons other than “the need for investment”.

Since the meeting, hopes of getting the committee’s decision reversed or overturned appear to be fading.  In the absence on leave of Planning Director David Evans, who has the power to call decisions of the committee in for review by the full council, WDDC Chief Executive David Clarke wrote to members on 28 June 2012, saying that having taken advice he did not consider that the decision represented a “significant departure from the development Plan”, and that “Members of the Committee were perfectly entitled to have an alternative judgement and use that as the basis for their decision”.  Accordingly the decision would not be called in to the full council.

In the meantime a number of letters, including one from the Bridport Area Development Trust, were sent to the National Planning Casework Unit, which can request the Secretary of State (for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles) to call in the decision.

A standard reply has now been received by objectors, reporting the Secretary of State’s decision not to opt for call-in, on the basis that “the proposals do not: involve a conflict with national policies on important matters; have significant effects beyond their immediate locality; give rise to substantial regional or national controversy; raise significant architectural and urban design issues; or involve the interests of national security or of Foreign Governments…. He has therefore decided the application should be determined at local level,” (“at local level” in this case appears to mean by a group of councillors belonging to his own Party, only one of whom represents a Bridport constituency, at a meeting held in the County Council Chamber in Dorchester).

As previously reported on this website the Bridport Area Development Trust has offered to engage in discussions with the landowners and others about an alternative approach to the restoration and development of the St Michael’s Estate – an approach which would promote longer term regeneration and investment opportunities as opposed to the short term residential approach currently being pursued.  No response has been so far received, but the BADT remains committed to seeking an alternative to the current plans.

Trust lodges Objection to St Michael’s Plans (February 2012)

St Michael's Trading Estate, Bridport

The St Michael's Trading Estate

The BADT has lodged an objection to the recently published Outline planning application from Hayward & Co. for the St Michael’s Trading Estate.

The proposals are for a mixed development including 105 residential units, fewer than the number proposed in the unsuccessful applications submitted jointly with West Dorset District Council in 2008-9, but still higher than the Local Plan figure of 80.  The Development Trust considers that the scale of housing development is “wholly inappropriate” and will have “an adverse impact on the historic character, townscape and use of the conservation area”.

The Trust’s letter concludes that “the proposals are speculative and will result in the loss of occupied employment floorspace as well as existing jobs.  Emerging enterprises which are making an important contribution to economic and employment growth in Bridport will be put at risk and the loss of the historic fabric of this area which makes an important contribution to the character and heritage of Bridport will be irreparable.”

Download BADT objection letter (Feb.2012) (pdf)