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Scorpio

Bedlington Conservation Area - is it stopping investment in the town center?

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Hi everyone,

 

I'm semi-retired and have been looking for an interesting building to move into and make my home since I sold my house late last year.

I was hoping to find something a bit different with lots of character and have found a few places in Bedlington since I started looking - no surprise given the history of the town.

In the past I have lived (renting) in some unusual buildings including a pub, church, fire station, and several houses which were more like building sites due to the work that was being done to them. I like variety!

 

The old church on Bedlington Front Street has been converted into 3 homes in recent years. One of the flats in there is now for sale and I had a look at it a couple of months ago, it's very nice inside but I'm looking for something that needs a bit of work to keep me occupied. I was chatting to the people who converted the building and they explained what work they had done, I got the impression that the job would have been much easier if the building had not been in Bedlington Conserrvation Area (where any changes - even very small - have to be pre-approved by Council departments in advance).

 

One of the other buildings I like a lot and looked at more than once was Lairds House / "new" Top House Club. 

There's a brief discussion about it here : http://www.bedlington.co.uk/community/topic/5005-the-lairds-house/

It has been neglected for many years and would give me plenty of work to stop me getting bored but would be an amazing building if it was tidied up. The building needs a lot of repair work which would be expensive but this is mainly due to the size of the building rather than the work itself being complicated. As I do most of my own work for "fun", it would take me time but the cost would be affordable.

As the building is in Bedlington Conservation Area, I spoke to a couple of departments in the council to get their views on me converting the building back to its' original - residential - use.

It soon became obvious that they would like to see the building restored rather than continuing to deteriorate - * but * - any changes would have to fit with the Conservation Area Policy.

As it's a lovely old building with lots of character, I was hoping it would be possible to repair it "sensibly" using modern equipment and techniques (partly to keep costs down - partly to increase insulation etc at the same time ) while keeping the buildings charm.

The council departments I spoke to soon explained that they would oppose the fitting of modern repairs as in their view it would spoil the building. They explained that they regard modern double glazing as an unacceptable change...

 

I approve of their desire to keep the character of the conservation area, but in this case it looks like it has resulted in the town loosing me as a possible investor who was willing and able to improve the town center.

Hopefully someone will be along soon to restore the building to its former glory.

 

I'll try to list the specific things that would cause problems when trying to restore the building, in case I've missed an obvious solution.

 

Many thanks,

Pete

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Pete,

 

The Council must have double standards if the told you  "Any  changes would have to fit in with the Conservation Area Policy." Take a look a few yards further down the street and still within the Conservation Area to see what has been passed by the same people. I'm sure you and everyone else know the two sites that I refer to. If they say that they regard "Modern double glazing as an unacceptable change" then why have they given permission to an Estate Agent to remove three stone pillars and single windows from the former HSBC bank to be replaced with a Single Seventies style window to accommodate their advertising Bumf.  You say you are Semi Retired so I'll assume you have plenty time on your hands to engage in any building work, we'll don't worry about meeting any deadlines,  there's stiff competition here  for who finishes last between the Builders of the two sites I mentioned. To be perfectly honest you probably wouldn't have a look in with these two. I heard a rumour recently that the building being erected on the former Elliots Garage Site will need re-wiring before its complete. (Brussels)  :devil:

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What a mess the town is in regards planning permissions - the beaurocracy is almost as bad as the French. For God's sake can someone not show a bit of savvy.

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Hi Foxy, tomotom, & everyone,

 

I maybe should have mentioned that I'm just a individual with an interest in unusual buildings, not a business.

Large companies & businesses may have the funds and influence available to persuade to council to allow changes which don't fit the conservation area document, I'm not willing to gamble that they would make an exception in my case - especially after discussing things with them.

My cash is available now but there are limits so I need to know in advance what the approximate costs will be to make sure that I can afford to take on the project.

 

One question keeps coming to mind : are the council trying to "freeze" the area as it used to be ( so preserve it exactly as it was in 2011) or are they trying to keep the "feel" of the area which has evolved & been developed over several centuries (and would have continued to evolve and develop if the conservation area had not been introduced) ?

 

 

The Bedlington Conservation Area document can be found here : http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/idoc.ashx?docid=54d8a65f-c44c-43a9-a7a0-96fe7abd4a2d&version=-1

 

After speaking to some of the relevant council departments (mainly "Conservation" and "Planning Strategy") some of the items in the document that caused me concern are listed below :

 

Page 9, 2.3 "Conservation areas do not prevent development from taking place. Rather, they are designed to manage change, controlling the way new development and other investment reflects the character of its surroundings. Being in a conservation area does tend to increase the standards required for aspects such as repairs, alterations or new building, but this is often outweighed by the „cachet‟ of living or running a business in a conservation area, and the tendency of a well-maintained neighbourhood character to sustain, or even enhance, property values."

* Lairds House has a wonderful view of the Council "concrete box" offices across the road, topped with a big bright green "Jobcenter" sign and more antennaes than any other building in the area (do they really watch that much TV?). How does this fit with their policy? Or enhance the value of the area?

 

P11, 2.3 "Bedlington, like other settlements in the area, shows no ongoing signs of serious economic decline, but does suffer from general long term under investment in fabric in historic buildings and spaces which requires regenerative investment. This would raise the quality of its appearance and the vitality as a local centre." 

* I agree investment is needed but is this being prevented by the same policy they introduced to protect the area?

 

P35, 6.9 "Other key unlisted buildings include the following:

ï‚· Laird‟s House (now the Top Club): this is both architecturally and historically interesting, created from an eighteenth century farm to Victorian pit offices to a modern private members‟ club and offices."

* If it's a key building, why is being allowed to deteriorate and possible investment in it not being encouraged?

 

There are several pages listing details of windows :

 

P38  6.15 "The area‟s architecture relies on a handful of recurring features and detailing, treated in slightly different ways throughout, as influenced by the development history of the area and the use of each building. The features are:

ï‚· masonry ï‚· doorways ï‚· windows"
* I've removed some items from the list above, but left those which might cause problems when restoring the building
 
6.16 "Many of these details have been altered over time... Control over harmful changes to these elements will be important to preserving or enhancing the character and appearance of the conservation area in the future."
* I approve of this in principle, but making it uneconomic to repair / replace rotting original windows cannot be the best solution.
* I find it difficult to see how this works as many of the buildings in the conservation area hove been modernised over the last few centuries (and many now have modern - efficient - UPVC double glazing, etc)
 
P43, 6.3 "Of the windows themselves, relatively few historic now survive, making those which do all the more important to the architectural character of the area."
* Several of the existing window frames in the building have rotted badly and need replacing, the is no double-glazing anywhere in the building.
* The council advised that they would only accept "like-for-like" replacements, ie (expensive, custom made) hardwood timber.
* Modern UPVC double glazing would not be an option (despite many neighbouring buildings - including the council offices - having it)
 
P62, 6.74 "Loss and Replacement of Original Architectural Details
ï‚· Widespread loss of original windows, replaced with either modern timber casements or with PVCu casements."
* I agree it would be a shame to loose the original features, but the alternatives are to let the originals deteriorate or install custom made hardwood sash frames (which will cost many times more than modern UPVC) - I believe cost and restrictions are why many original frames are being left to deteriorate.
 
P59, 6.66 "Other private gardens are less prominent and tend to be back gardens or yards, notably the large back yards on the
north side of the street, many of which are largely unattractive .. most rear yards less prominent but illustrate historic development pattern and layout, and fragments of old walls walls, or fragments thereof, which are crucial to understanding the history of the place and in defining historic character to the rear of properties...Their protection is important."
* There is no off-street parking at Lairds House but the large back garden has several existing hard-standing areas which could be used for secure parking. The council advised they would resist any changes (such as widening the footpath gate up to make a driveway gate - even though most other buildings on the street have made a similar - or more drastic - changes. Reason is that the rear walls in that area are of "significant historical interest" (I saw this the document a while ago but can't find it today) 
* I saw a reference that there is also a small collapsed outbuilding in the back garden which is "of historical significance" and should not be disturbed. Depending what this is and where it's at, may make it difficult to make full use of the back garden.
 
P66, 6.76 "The general condition of the public realm in the conservation area is good, but the condition of many of the buildings is an on-going cause for concern, where investment and repairs have not kept apace with demand. Several buildings can be classed as being "at risk"... 
* Possibly due to incompatibility between groups wanting to invest and restrictions on on changes?
 
P74, 8.8 "Demolition - Within conservation areas, the demolition of unlisted buildings requires conservation area consent."
* I believe this includes changes to / removal of / even repairs to ... collapsed derelict outbuildings
 
 
Apologies if it's hard work reading through the list above but it gives you an idea of how much time and effort I put into investigating the options before deciding I just couldn't risk taking project on. It's a real shame as I would have loved the opportunity.
 
thanks for reading,
Pete
 
 
Just for reference (including the not-so-traditional garage door that's been built next to Lairds House..)
2133635_43f18455.jpg

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Scorpio

as far as I can see you are the ideal saviour for what is an interesting and worthy building. These idiots should give you all the encouragement they can.

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Hi Pete, Have you thought about the old School/Church hall I heard a rumor the current owner is wanting to sell, Personally I would love to see it preserved as it is a lovely building and would make a great house for someone.

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Hi Scorpio,

 

Good luck with your search whatever you decide.

 

The conservation area has been a contentious subject ever since it was introduced and I have mixed feelings. It probably has had a detrimental affect on some buildings it was introduced to protect but at the same time I'm very glad that there is not a free for all on replacement of historic features. I recently had to make similar repairs to sash windows in the conservation area and although initially I thought that putting PVC replacements in would have been a good choice to have I now very much prefer having the repaired originals. It is relatively straightforward to add brush pile draught proofing strips at the same time and the cost doesn't have to be as much as you think. A fully sealed uPVC unit is often not suitable with regard to ventilation needed for the design of the building and the insulation value difference once you have draught proofed and added a well fitting heavy curtain perhaps isn't as much as people realise. Well insulated internal shutters are also an option as well as secondary glazing. I can pass on details of the local company that did my repairs on request.if you do decide to go this route.

 

 

 

* Lairds House has a wonderful view of the Council "concrete box" offices across the road, topped with a big bright green "Jobcenter" sign and more antennaes than any other building in the area (do they really watch that much TV?). How does this fit with their policy?

 

It's before my time but I'm almost certain the council offices were built before the conservation area was introduced. The historic building it replaced has a few topics on this site although its name escapes me.

 

 

 

* I agree investment is needed but is this being prevented by the same policy they introduced to protect the area?

 

Yes this is my main opposition to the conservation area strategy. Common sense is often thrown out of the window and some buildings are starting to fall down as a result. The old school building has been mentioned in this topic and is a good example of where a number of proposals were put forward by a developer. Some of these proposals would still have meant a fairly major change to the character of the building but much of it was to be preserved. In the end because all proposals were rejected by the local planning authority at an early stage it went to appeal. An expensive legal battle eventually led to the plans with the least amount of the original building being preserved being accepted and unfortunately the momentum taken out of the whole process. So now all that is happening is the building is continuing to fall down.

 

* I saw a reference that there is also a small collapsed outbuilding in the back garden which is "of historical significance" and should not be disturbed. Depending what this is and where it's at, may make it difficult to make full use of the back garden.

 
If this is the building I'm thinking of it is not in the grounds of Laird's House, it is behind 40c and 40d Front Street West (currently the beauty salon and hairdressers).

 

 

 

* I find it difficult to see how this works as many of the buildings in the conservation area hove been modernised over the last few centuries (and many now have modern - efficient - UPVC double glazing, etc)

 

Yes, this confuses me too. There are a number of properties that have had uPVC windows fitted inside the conservation area since it was introduced. 

 

 

 

* I agree it would be a shame to loose the original features, but the alternatives are to let the originals deteriorate or install custom made hardwood sash frames (which will cost many times more than modern UPVC) - I believe cost and restrictions are why many original frames are being left to deteriorate.

 

When mine were repaired I was surprised by how much is salvageable. The cills are the first to go but often the sashes themselves can be stripped repaired and repainted. A few of the bottom rails of the lower sashes had rotten and were replaced. New cords were fitted and draught seals added.

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Latest rumour on the Top Club/Laird's House = 'Yeah it was sold a while ago. It been turned into an upmarket B&B upstairs and a restaurant downstairs.

I can't find a planning application on the NCC site. Does anyone know if the latest rumour has any truth in it?

 

On 3/30/2015 at 09:46, Reedy said:

Is the Elliotts Garage project not owned by a County Councillor?

Did notice an application (it was top of the list, so no extensive searching) on the Lion Garage.  

Reference16/02625/FUL - Application Received Tue 26 Jul 2016 - Application Validated Tue 26 Jul 2016

AddressLion Garage (Bedlington) Ltd First Floor Offices Coulson House 15 Front Street West Bedlington Northumberland NE22 5TZ

Proposal - Change of use to 2 bedroom flat. Status - Registered

Appeal Status Unknown. Appeal Decision Not Available

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I noticed the "for sale" board had changed to "sold" about 2 months ago but not seen any signs of activity or any planning applications. If I hear of anything I'll update here.

Hopefully it will progress, rather than remain empty and continue to go downhill.

On the subject of empty buildings on main shopping streets, I noticed Morpeth has a lot of large buildings sitting empty (Queens Hotel + Smails DIY + Jewsons in Oldgate etc), it's not just Bedlington that has the problem.

 

cheers,

Pete

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When I was checking the planning applications I noticed a retrospective application for external shutters at Astons bar, it will be interesting to see if they are approved (or if they get removed if the application fails)

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