Town centre scheme lacks informed understanding of local character

A mixed-use redevelopment of former council offices in a Cheshire town centre was refused for harm to the appearance and character of the area generally and the surrounding conservation area specifically, resulting in conflict with adopted local, emerging and made neighbourhood plans' policies. The proposal included 70 residential units, a café/restaurant and associated parking.

The riverside town centre site was identified in an adopted local and made neighbourhood plan for redevelopment for mixed use subject to a high-quality design sympathetic to and reflecting the distinctive timber-framed architectural and industrial heritage of the area.

In considering the proposal, the inspector held the overall scale and mass of the building meant that it would appear very much as a single block with a largely flat and uninteresting façade, lacking rhythm on what was a prominent corner site which provided an important focal point and entrance to the town centre. The appellant had argued their design had complied with a 2018 conservation area management plan for the area by proposing a contemporary building which was not a pastiche form of development. But the inspector felt the scheme, which tried to echo traditional black and white timber-framed buildings with black and white brick panels, lacked an informed understanding of the forms, styles, features and materials of its locality. The inspector concluded that the less than substantial harm to the character of the conservation area caused by the poorly designed scheme was not outweighed by its social and economic benefits.

Inspector: Beverley Doward; Written representations

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