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Breeaking News - Response to the Derby City Council Local Plan Part 2 Issues and Options Consultation

Delivering High Quality Places 

Amenity and Quality of life
No comment 

Adverts and Shop fronts
We are happy with the existing guidance on shop fronts as they apply to Conservation areas but they should be made into a full blown policy. Outside of those areas, we would like to see more done to promote better design and quality of materials used in shop fronts; make a positive contribution to the street scene; and do not detract from the significance of heritage assets

Regeneration 

City Centre Regeneration Sites
We consider the most challenging of the neglected areas of the City Centre is a swathe of land stretching from Green Lane to Abbey St/Curzon St and bounded by Macklin St in the South and Victoria St and Wardwick in the North.

A bold and comprehensive redevelopment of the area is needed. It is plagued by a combination of derelict sites, antisocial behaviour and rundown businesses.

We recognised the importance of regenerating this area as long ago as 2006, when we proposed the Green Lane Conservation Area. For the last 10 years we have campaigned for regeneration of this area. In the last 12 months we have published our proposals for the complete redevelopment of the Green Lane/Becketwell Area which we have called the Joseph Wright Cultural Quarter.

The other area which needs urgent action is the Friargate Goods yard. Planning permissions have been granted for various schemes on this site over the years, but the owner has consistently failed to progress any development, whilst allowing the listed buildings on the site to fall into dilapidation. The site has been a focus for drug dealers, vagrants and arsonists.

We therefore advise that redevelopment of this site be given high priority, even to the extent of using compulsory powers.

In answer to your specific questions we would reply:

  1. Not necessarily. The two sites have different characteristics and could be developed separately.
  2. The Heritage Assets within the site need to be redeveloped with care and additional guidance would be helpful.
  3. We are not sure which area is referred to.
  4. As the owner of the site has sat on it for the past half-century without so much as putting a shovel in the ground, the Council should use all means at its disposal to acquire the site and promote its successful regeneration.
  5. The Rowditch Barracks, the Hippodrome, Friargate Bridge, Allestree Hall and Smith’s Clockworks. See Heritrage at Risk.

The Assembly Rooms
We would support the existing Assembly Rooms being re-opened as a matter of urgency. In the longer term we should like the Council to support our plans for the regeneration of the Becketwell area which would see the Hippodrome refurbished as a 1,200 seat commercial theatre with a new Concert Hall being constructed on the nearby Duckworth Square site. The two venues could work together sharing one box office and creating Derby’s own Cultural Quarter with the nearby Museum.

The former art college could also be refurbished as additional performance or rehearsal space.

Housing
We are generally happy with the existing policies subject to:

  • New development complementing rather than detracting from the character of a particular neighbourhood
  • Resist the temptation to develop in the green wedges of the City. These have been successful in improving air quality and the general quality of life in residential neighbourhoods
  • Not allow developments which would blur the distinctions between different neighbourhoods.
  • Encourage and support the redevelopment of brownfield sites for residential use; in particular sites located close to the City Centre should be developed as urban villages along the lines of the successful Castle Ward development.
  • With reduced demand for retail space, encourage and support the conversion of commercial property to residential. Where a building was originally a single occupancy house encourage its reconversion to a single occupancy house once again.

Delivering a Sustainable Economy
We feel that the current policies do not recognise the economic benefits of conserving and enhancing our heritage assets. There are the direct benefits derived from the construction work itself and the new types of business that are generated in the heritage sector; but there are also indirect economic benefits. Particularly in the City Centre, a pleasant environment encourages people to both visit the City Centre and also work there. With today’s mobile workforce, people will move to work in a place that has beautiful buildings, attractive public realm and historic features. This in turn encourages businesses to open in those areas.
Working on historic buildings often involves using traditional skills which many local firms have, and would give a boost to those firms.

There seems to be no mention in the consultation document of the previous policy of “getting suits on the streets” of the City Centre. This involved building high grade office space. Most od of the proposed office developments have been shelved and the sites formerly ear market for office development are now being developed for residential use (whether student accommodation or otherwise). Has this policy been abandoned? If it has, then in order to support the daytime economy, all car parking north of the Market Place should be free after 10 pm for up to 90 minutes.

Green Infrastructure
There seems to be no mention of Parks in the consultation document. As well as being highly beneficial for the health and wellbeing of our residents they are amongst some of the most important of our heritage assets. Most of our parks were given to the City by local landowners in the 20th Century and need to be preserved and enhanced. Careful thought needs to be given to any constructions or modifications to parks. They must be suitable for 21st Century recreation, but also need to be safe and pleasant places to visit. 50 years ago our parks department was the envy of the land and won prestigious awards for its floral displays etc. The Parks department has now been subsumed into other departments and is now managed on the basis of carrying out the bare minimum of maintenance and good husbandry. They are often blighted by litter and deserve a higher priority by the Council.

The survival of playing fields is essential if we are to tackle the obesity epidemic.

Green wedges are also important to provided additional green space to combat pollution and help separate our distinctive suburbs. As the suburbs expand outwards, so the green wedges need to be extended.

Heritage

Heritage Development Management policies
We are asked to consider if the existing policies saved from the previous plan should be carried over into the new policy or subsumed as they are adequately covered elsewhere. Whilst the latter may be the case, we would not like to risk any dilution in the protection afforded to heritage assets or conservation areas. We would recommend that the policies be carried forward in their entirety unless there is a conflict, in which case it needs to be made clear which policy has priority.

On the specific question of use and re-use, we believe that any use is better than no use if it can be incorporated without damaging the fabric and character of the building or area. Ideally, heritage assets should be returned to their original use but we recognise that this is not always commercially viable.

Tall Buildings
It is much regretted that The Tall Buildings Strategy produced in 2008 has not been adopted as a policy. This Society has assisted in framing the strategy and campaigned to have it implemented.

It should now be incorporated as a policy within the Local Plan as a matter of urgency as many planning applications for tall buildings are pending or have been granted.

We are not against tall buildings as such, but like any application it should be assessed on its impact on heritage assets and conservation areas. This means that an application to erect a tall building within the inner ring road or the Friargate area is likely to be harmful to heritage assets. A tall building should only be permitted if it is of sufficient design and build quality as to enhance the beauty of the City rather than detract from it. The recent draft guidance for building in the Friargate Conservation area should be implemented without delay, as the current spate of applications for massive student accommodation blocks on Agard St cannot be permitted to go ahead.

The Society considers It essential that those seeking permission for development anywhere near the City Centre provided with a detailed design brief so that they know in advance what is expected of them.

Heritage at Risk
About two years ago, Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust compiled a list of the 10 most at risk historic buildings in the County, of which five are in Derby City.

These are:
Frirgate Bridge – Listed Grade II
When the Fraigate line was closed in the 1960s the bridge was acquired by Derby City Council for £1. Since then it has been left more or less to its own devices, gradually deteriorating. In recent years some of the decorative ironwork has fallen off requiring unsightly netting to be installed to catch any more bits!

A recent survey however has shown that, remarkably, it is still structurally sound. We were informed over two years ago that the Council were going to apply for a grant for its renovation. The outcome of that is unknown. The Council recently announced they were going to do work on the Bridge, but it transpires that this amounts to little more than removal of vegetation. Meanwhile the Friends of Friargate Bridge are applying for a lottery grant to carry out a feasibility study into potential uses for the bridge.

Hippodrome – Listed Grade II
Built in 1914 as one of the last Music Halls, it was unique in presaging the growth of Cinema by installing a projection room. At various times it has been a theatre, cinema, theatre again and a bingo hall. It has been derelict for over a decade. It was owned by a property developer who initially wished to demolish it and build flats. When this planning application was rejected he applied for partial demolition, and erection of a multi-storey car park. This application was also rejected, but in the meantime the building was beset by vandalism and a series of fires. The owner claimed it was unsafe and instructed a demolition firm to dismantle the roof. The council obtained a court order to stop this and did some stabilisation work itself. The owner was declared bankrupt owing money to a finance company which has a mortgage on the site.

The Hippodrome Restoration Trust was formed to try to acquire the building with the backing of, among others, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Theatres Trust.

Both the trust and the city council obtained consultants reports which confirmed that the building could be restored to a viable commercial theatre. In 2014 the trust obtained planning permission to partially restore the building as a coffee shop, together with exhibition space on the ground floor and office and meeting rooms on second, third and fourth floors.

The property has been valued at £50,000, but we understand that the finance company want £2m to release their mortgage.

The way forward would be for the City Council to compulsorily purchase the building with an agreement to immediately sell it on to the Trust. The Council needs to introduce a specific policy stating how they intend to facilitate the restoration of this important building.

Allestree Hall – Listed Grade II*
Once the home of the Derby banking and mill owning Evans family, it has been owned by Derby City Council for over 25 years but has stood empty all that time except for partial use by Allestree Golf Club.

There have been various proposals over the years, starting with a nature museum and then gallery use, then various types of educational use, offices and residential and care home. The earlier public proposals were not funded, and later proposals by developers and outside organisations never proceeded to planning and listed building consent because no agreement regarding lease or sale was forthcoming from the council.

The Derbyshire Historic buildings Trust recently unveiled plans to acquire the building from the Council and convert it into luxury homes.

We understand that the property is now up for sale.

Rowdicth Barracks – Listed Grade II
Designed by Edwin Thompson of Derby and built in 1859 of red brick with ashlar dressings and shallow hipped slate roofs, the militia barracks are described by Historic England as “a very rare and well preserved example of a local volunteer barracks.”

Apart from some tennis courts and a museum store the buildings are neglected and unloved. We are not aware of any proposal by the City Council to restore them.

Smith’s Clock Works – Locally listed in City Centre Conservation Area
After being allowed to deteriorate for more than 15 years the former Smiths Clock Works on Queens Street Derby is in desperate need of repair.

 Originally the site of a much earlier building which was built by the father of John Flamstead the first Astronomer Royal, being later rebuilt by John Whitehurst in 1764 with a new frontage after designs by Joseph Pickford. Whitehurst was a noted Derby clockmaker and scientist who was an influential member of the Lunar Society who probably entertained other prominent citizens of the age including Benjamin Franklin, James Ferguson and Josiah Wedgewood at the property. In 1793 Derby’s most famous artist Joseph Wright leased the property and following his death four years later the building was divided into a house and a pub, the Acorn Inn. By 1865 local clockmaker John Smiths business was proving to be a success allowing him to move to the larger Queen Street premises and to undertake further alterations in 1908 which included demolishing the Acorn Inn. In 1924 the front of the building was altered again as part of a scheme to widen the road and these later designs were completed by T H Thorpe including an interior which still survives.

Smiths Clocks moved out in 1999 and the workshop buildings to the rear were demolished when ownership was transferred to Joseph De Winter and subsequent planning applications were made. The last of these was for offices and apartments which was approved in 2003. Though not listed nationally, the building is included on Derby City Council’s Local List of Historic Buildings.

 With any planning applications now either lapsed or not pursued the building has remained unused for many years though kept watertight due to the actions of squatters who moved in shortly after the building became vacant.

Given its association (this site was proposed as the Zero Meridian before King Charles II requested it be located at his Observatory in Greenwich) this building, though much altered, is really of National significance and could perhaps become a Museum of Time or a museum of the enlightenment.

The Civic Society has been in touch with the representatives of the owner with a view to coming to some arrangement whereby the building could be transferred to a trust to turn into a library and museum, but leaving the developer free to develop the land at the rear. We understand, however, that the current owner has decided to sell the site instead, although it doesn’t appear to be being widely marketed.

The Civic Society wish to praise the City Council in respect of a number of schemes it has initiated that have resulted in buildings that were previously at risk being redeveloped successfully. Notably St Helen’s House, the Magistrates Court in Full St, The Darley Hall Stables, the Darley Abbey Mills and the former Rolls-Royce offices on Nightingale Road.

It is noted that three of the five buildings mentioned above are owned by the City Council. They should lead the way by example and set about saving these much loved buildings.

As regards the Hippodrome, they could use their powers to enable the Restoration Trust to acquire the building and initiate its redevelopment as part of an overarching scheme to regenerate the Green Lane/Becketwell area.

Likewise it could acquire the Smith’s Clockworks site and together with its own adjacent land redevelop the land at the rear for housing.

Therefor we advise that specific policies be put in place to achieve this.

Learning Health and Community

We would support the restoration of the Derby Canal.

It makes sense to safeguard the route.

Transport

Protected Routes
We support the protection of the Mick/Mack route either as a walking/cycling route or a tram route.

Air Quality
This is an issue that is vital to the health and wellbeing of our citizens and particularly our children.

We agree that option b is the right approach.

We understand that there are only a handful of air quality monitoring stations that are working. These should be checked and replaced/repaired as soon as possible. Additional monitors need to be installed around the city particularly near industrial sites.

Other Development Management policies

Enforcement
We agree that a policy should be included in Part 2.

Telecommunications
We suggest that the following be included in the policy:

that no telecommunication masts or other equipment be permitted, if to do so would cause any harm to a heritage asset or conservation area.

Contaminated Land and Pollution
A number of planning applications have been allowed for the construction of recycling plants involving the burning of refuse in residential areas. This has added to residents’ fears of air pollution.

As has already been discussed the residents of our City already suffer pollution above the safety margin set by the government. They do not wish to have this added to by plants that could be located further from residential areas. There should be a policy to specifically consider the effects of such processes on residents.

  

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