The need to safeguard heritage buildings along North End is urged by Andrew Kennedy, an activist in Croydon Transition Town group in evidence submitted to the scheme’s CPO Inquiry.
Andrew highlights the inadequacy of the local CAAMP (Central Croydon Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan) referenced in the CPO. Merely stipulating that the facades alone be preserved is insufficient instruction to ensure that the heritage asset is saved.
Without safeguards the building facades will look more like a film set than genuine preserved assets and this can only be detrimental to the town environment.
He suggests to the Inquiry Inspector that the CPO should not be enacted until the plan for each heritage asset is made clear and approved because once demolished they cannot be rebuilt. This step is also necessary because there may be design, cost and expertise implications that any developer should be made aware of before undertaking the whole scheme.
Andrew’s submission includes illustrated examples of what can happen in Croydon if sufficient safeguards are not built into the planning process.
- 5 George Street. Under a previous order the façade was retained and the building and roof demolished behind. Subsequent years of neglect since the front of the building was closed off with mirror glass have got it to the state where it is now no longer considered worth preserving. The original roof was removed and an industrial style roof imposed which is not only out of character with the saved façade but also extended over the neighbouring building which is of a completely different building style. The result is a dead and decaying façade that may not be recoverable. Where what was something that was deemed worth saving is now considered only fit for demolition.
- The former Grants Building in the High Street is an example of an over powering roof line due to original roof being demolished right up to the front of the building. Also blank walls behind window openings have resulted in a dead facade.
A feature that is essential for a successful retained façade is what use the first few feet of the building is put too. The floor levels, the window openings must be consistent with the existing building. Sometimes this will means restoring the original use of the building but with new floors behind, At other times more imaginative solutions can be found but using the original room heights (or multiples thereof). Once windows are opened up to let light through and to show signs of life behind then the building façade has a fighting chance of succeeding. Installing mirror glass to hide what is going on behind will inevitably lead to deterioration of the asset and to a deteriorating street scene.
It is essential that any potential developer be put on notice about the kind of conditions that will be applied before detailed planning permission can be obtained. In this way the developer can assess the likely costs and overall design implications. There might be some loss of retail space and more imaginative solutions may need to be sought. But by doing this the developers are less likely to run out of money or not allocate enough money to saving the heritage assets.
Once demolished there can be no going back and a weak regulatory system makes a nonsense of the idea of a locally listed asset.
Andrew’s submission will be loaded onto the Inquiry website in due course.