City of Winchester Trust
  • kingalf
  • cathedral
  • roundtable
  • westgate
  • guildhall
  • wolsey
  • stcross
  • library





Response to the Silver Hill planning application amendments

CWT Planning Application comments Date: 07.03.07

Following the architect’s presentation to members of the Trust’s council and viewing panels of the amendments made to this scheme, the Trust, whilst welcoming the changes made since our last comments, would like to add some additional comments to those made previously.

It is still considered that the Development Brief requires too much of the area and will result in overdevelopment of the site, although the reduced requirements now being sought are welcomed, since they allow some mitigation of the apparent mass of Block A and the omission of the dwelling on the corner of Eastgate Street and Friarsgate.

Block A
The altered roofline is a marked improvement and, together with the drawing back of the corners at each end of the Silver Hill façade, does something to ameliorate the previous over-powering presence of the building and allows trees to be planted in the spaces that are provided. It would, however, still be a very large structure that would not be typical of Winchester. Opinions varied amongst those discussing it, with some feeling the changes represent sufficient improvement, while others felt it was no better than before.

There is still concern about the treatment of the north façade of the building. The use of flint was welcomed, but the general feeling was that the ground floor should provide a strong horizontal base of unbroken flint and brick, and that the timber elements should be omitted – it should be possible to design a wall in a style typical of the city that could have windows inserted at a later date if this becomes desirable. It was also felt the tall dominant ventilation elements that are proposed emphasise the large scale of the building, an effect that might be reduced if their height were broken down into floors, perhaps using some other form of screening.

Block B
As locally understood, clunch is a rural material and it is felt most strongly that it should not be used in the centre of Winchester, and that its use here is inappropriate.

The Trust still finds the long windowless corridors of the internal layout of this block (as well as that now proposed for the affordable housing in Block A) unsatisfactory, and also reiterates its previous hope that the units will be designed in a way that would allow them to be combined into larger units should this become desirable at a later date. It is very important that the parking floors in both Blocks A and B will be of a height suitable for residential use should the present parking requirement become obsolete at some future time.

Building C
The Trust continues to be concerned about the facilities being offered to those at present sited in the Antiques Market building, as they seem somewhat inadequate. It is also felt that a long stretch of blank shutters will not give a satisfactory environment when the stalls are closed, for not only will they have a bleak appearance but they will also provide an excellent surface for the local graffiti artists.

Building F
It has just been noticed that an interesting view of the Cathedral from Tanner Street will be lost by the height of the east end of the building, and it is hoped it would be possible to avoid this loss.

Building G
This is still considered an unsatisfactory building for this important position, and that a more distinctive design is needed than this ‘control tower’ appearance. Large windows and balconies facing north also seem of dubious benefit. The Trust suggests that its design should be a reserved matter so that a decision on its design would not delay approval for the scheme as a whole.

Building H
Because of the many interesting proposals being put forward by local organisations it is suggested that the use made of the, Woolstaplers’ Hall should be left open at this stage.

Tanner Street
This remains a flawed component of the scheme and the Trust remains very concerned about the conflict of uses proposed for this street: as the main pedestrian route to the bus station and medical centre, and as the vehicular route for deliveries and the car parks. The use of different surfaces, smooth for pedestrians and cobbles (which are unpleasant to walk on) for vehicles might help, although there are bound to be points of conflict along the route, and it is wondered whether a pentice along the west façade of Block C might not provide a more satisfactory protected pedestrian route. Managed times of delivery would also help, although it seems unlikely that the residents would welcome deliveries during the night or early morning.

The Broadway
The removal of buses using the route between the High Street and St George’s Street is welcomed, as is the use of the area for the weekly and farmers’ markets. It is noted that stalls on the north side of the High Street are very close to the shopfronts (presumably to allow vehicles to pass), and it is wondered how desirable this would be for those shops that might be open on Sundays.

Landscaping
We understand that the trees in, Middle Brook Street are not in very good condition, and their removal now seems acceptable, especially as it is proposed that reasonably-sized trees will be at either end of this western façade of the block.

The Trust does, however, still question the removal of the mature trees on the corner of Eastgate Street and Friarsgate, which is said to be necessary because the road has to be widened at this point. These trees contribute very greatly to the character of the streetscape in a way that smaller trees would not do for many years, however large they might be at the time of planting. We understand the land on the opposite corner of Friarsgate is in the ownership of Winchester City Council and would urge that using part of this for widening the road should be considered.

The planting proposed for Friarsgate still gives cause for concern, primarily because of the long-term management that will be required. The type of pleached tree shown might be acceptable, provided it is well managed – who will be doing this? The trees on the opposite side of Friarsgate have an upright habit, are attractive and robust and need little maintenance. Would they not be suitable? It is also felt that examples of willow screens installed elsewhere should be viewed before permission is given for the method of screening the bus station. The general feeling was that trees with suitable shrubs under might be more practical.

The Trust still feels the use of resin-bonded gravel is inappropriate for this central city area.

GENERAL CONCLUSIONS

The Trust still finds some aspects of the amended scheme very unsatisfactory.

Overdevelopment The City Council should give serious consideration to reducing the required amount of housing on this particular site because of the detrimental effect this and its associated parking have on the scale of the development.

It is hoped that the solutions for the following unsatisfactory components could be treated as conditions or reserved matters because it is felt they should not prevent a decision being made on the scheme as a whole.

Materials It is still considered that a simpler and more restrained palette of materials should be used throughout the development, and that the use of clunch should be omitted.

Block A, north façade. Further thought should be given to the design and treatment of this elevation.

Building G Further thought should be given to the design of this building.

Tanner Street It is felt the conflict between pedestrian and vehicle use should have a more satisfactory solution.

While it is still felt that too much is being demanded of the site and that consequently the scale of some of the buildings might be too large for this part of the city, the Trust very much appreciates the understanding and respect the developer and the architects have given to their proposals for the Silver Hill development, and welcomes their thoughtful approach to adding a development of this size to the present compact form of Winchester. It is not often that an opportunity such as this is given to a small city - that the active participants have both given the time necessary for appreciating and understanding the important characteristics of the area into which a large development such as this is to be inserted.

We understand that if these proposals go ahead, it is proposed that the architects will be in charge throughout the construction of the development, and it is considered essential that this is indeed so, for the high standard of detailing for which the practice is renowned will be of the utmost importance for the success of the scheme.

The design of this development began before the problems caused by global warming were generally recognised as being of everyday importance, and the Trust considers that the changed conditions resulting from the recognition of its impact should now become an integral part of these new buildings. It is expected that they should be with us for the next 50-100 years, and it is therefore urged that further thought should be given to the environmental sustainability of the development, by including energy-saving elements into the construction of these new buildings, such as having solar panels or tiles on the roofs, and using rainwater for WC cisterns, together with any other suitable measures to reduce their impact on the local environment.