City of Winchester Trust
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Planning Appraisal Group - TrustNews March 07

Commenting on the planning applications every week gives an interesting overview of the demands being made upon the general character of Winchester. These mainly seem to be at two completely different ends of the scale: many new large structures, or lots of loft conversions, their associated dormers and numerous 2-storey side extensions. The northern half of Winchester is clearly under pressure from large-scale developments, as is very evident from the many applications for schemes on Stockbridge Road, Andover Road and Chilbolton Avenue.

On Stockbridge Road these range from commercial developments (the proposed Aldi and Waitrose stores) to homes for the elderly (the demolition of 3-5 Burnett Close for sheltered accommodation, and the demolition of Warden Hill and two other sizeable houses on the opposite side of the road for a 3-storey block of 80 assisted-living bedrooms). All these still await a decision by the Local Planning Authority or on appeal. This area also has to cope with all the residential developments that have already been built, such as Salters, English Courtyard, and Weeke Manor, and those that have been granted but are not yet built, such as 1-3 Westley Close.

The character of Andover Road is under a less obvious challenge, because the siting of the largest development (the demolition of Winton House for 77 dwellings) will not impinge upon the street scene. However, although welcoming the reduced number of 19 dwellings it is now proposed should replace the Greenacres Special School, the Trust still feels the resultant density of 38dph is too high for a neighbourhood with no local shops and would be more appropriate for a site nearer the city centre. Decisions on both schemes are still to be made.

Chilbolton Avenue continues to suffer from the onslaught of proposals to demolish existing houses to make way for higher density residential developments. The recent proposal to demolish Ardmhor, 38 Chilbolton Avenue, and another house and build 10 dwellings in their stead has been withdrawn. A current application to demolish Lang House for a cumbersome block of fourteen 2-bedroom flats is however still under consideration. The viewing panels felt the mass and unbroken roof line of the pseudo Arts & Crafts 3-storey structure that is proposed would be an unsatisfactory replacement for the gables of the existing 2-storey house, which was built in 1910 and is one of the few original houses remaining in the road. The Trust objected to both these proposals.

Two-storey extensions, loft conversions and their apparently essential dormers can unfortunately be installed anywhere in the city in houses of any period. It is sad that only a small proportion of the additions are sympathetically designed to appreciate the scale and character of the original house, whether this is in a Victorian terrace or in an estate built in the second half of the last century. As might be expected, they are mostly designed from the inside, to provide the required additional accommodation, and all too frequently consideration of how it would look from the outside comes a very poor second, or is not considered at all.

The effect that large developments will have on the character of the suburbs of Winchester is very obvious, and it is hoped that the already stretched infrastructure will be able to cope with all the additional residents they are bringing into the city.

The 2-storey extensions and loft conversions have a less obvious impact on the character of the city as a whole, but they will have a cumulative affect that may take us all by surprise at a later date because of the precedents that have been set by granting them. A recent proposal for a roof alteration at 7 Alswitha Terrace, King Alfred Place is a good example of this, because the Design Statement uses examples of ugly rear extensions in the neighbourhood to justify building yet another inappropriate and unsympathetic addition. As this would be detrimental to the character of the period terrace house and could also be seen by the general public, we objected to the scheme, feeling there is no need to compound the mistakes made by previous permissions.

Two recent developments proposed in the city centre are disturbing. The site at 23 City Road has been sold on with permission to build 11 flats in place of the existing Winchester Tyre & Exhaust Centre. The new owner, Beechcroft Developments, wanting to return to the 14 flats that were found unacceptable on the first time around, has proposed a structure that would have too great a mass and height for its surroundings, with an inconsistent and pseudo period design which gives the building a fussy appearance that the crisp design of the permitted scheme had avoided. There would be no access from City Road, although one of the unreachable bedroom windows has been designed to appear like an entrance! Another scheme proposes to demolish nearby 38-42 Stockbridge Road, to the east of the railway bridge, and replace it with a 3-storey residential development with a contemporary design that fails to respect the character of its neighbours – the remainder of the 2-storey terrace to the west and the single storey building to the east. We also found it unacceptable that there were no drawings of how the proposed development would appear in the street scene, a narrow part of the road where we felt a 3-storey building would be detrimental to the general ambience, especially for pedestrians. We have objected to both these applications.

The developers of the Royal Observer Corps HQ, Abbotts Road, have put in another application to demolish the existing structure, to which we have no objection. We wait with interest to see what will be decided by the Planning Development Control Committee this time around!

Shione Carden