Topping Out at Copsewood

Les Fawcett and Paul Maddocks of The Coventry Society top-out restoration works to The Grange

It was a moment to say “job well done” when Morris Homes invited several of us to share in the ceremony to top-out the historic Copsewood Grange at Stoke. Chairman Paul Maddocks was joined by Les Fawcett to climb the scaffold and share the completion by inserting the last tile in the roof of the building.

Coventry Society believe the Grange and its Lodge form an important heritage asset to the city and we know they are highly valued by local people.

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This is  what the building looked like before restoration. There is more about the history of Copsewood Grange and our campaign to save it on our website at:

http://www.coventrysociety.org.uk/buildings-at-risk/copsewood-grange.html

 

Civic Voice supports Coventry Society campaign to save the Coventry Cross

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Civic Voice supports Coventry Society campaign to save the Coventry Cross situated in Hill Top Conservation Area

Call comes ahead of council decision on 4th October

Civic Voice – the national charity for the civic and conservation movement – is today drawing national attention to the impact of not having a Conservation Officer by the potential demolition of the Coventry Cross, in a once classified Outstanding Conservation Area.

Coventry City Council have put an application in to demolish the Coventry Cross, located in the Hilltop Conservation Area. A petition has been set up Coventry Society to oppose the decision, which is expected on 4th October 2018.

Ian Harvey, Executive Director, Civic Voice, said: “In Civic Voice’s view there is nothing in the planning application that states how the proposal will help to preserve or enhance the conservation area, contrary to legislation. Combined with the council no longer having a Conservation Officer to provide expert heritage advice, you must query whether Coventry’s historic environment is being given the necessary care and attention in the decision-making process, ahead of City of Culture 2021.”

Hill Top Conservation Area has national importance and was recognised by the Department of the Environment in December 1976 when it was granted the status of Outstanding Conservation Area. Hill Top Conservation Area will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019.

Harvey finished by saying: “In determining planning applications, the local authority must consider how the change within a Conservation Area ‘preserves or enhances’ the character or appearance of the area. We now know that over 20% of local authorities no longer have a conservation officer so we do query how these authorities, such as Coventry, are giving the necessary attention to their conservation areas. Is it any wonder that over 70% of Civic Voice members do not feel that their Conservation Areas are being afforded the necessary protection.”

Paul Maddocks, Chair of the Coventry Society said: “The council’s own Conservation Area Appraisal from 2014 states that the Coventry Cross replica enhances the historic character of the area. We should be celebrating this conservation area as it celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019, but currently, with no Conservation Officer, how is that possible? In the Coventry Society’s view there is nothing in the planning application that states how the proposal will help to preserve or enhance the conservation area, contrary to legislation. If Coventry City Council had a Conservation Officer in post, we are sure that the due attention to the historic environment would be considered.”

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Ian Harvey, Civic Voice

07877 096968

info@civicvoice.org.uk

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More about the Coventry Cross and the campaign to save it on this site.

www.coventrysociety.org.uk

St. Marks and the Feibusch Mural

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Join us for a visit to the recently refurbished St. Mark’s Church, Bird Street, on Monday 8th October 2018. We meet at 7 p.m. at the Church.

St. Mark’s is a Grade II listed building in the Gothic Revival Style. It closed as a Church in 1972 and was put to a number of uses, including a radio station, the Outpatients Department of the adjoining hospital, a doctor’s surgery and a warehouse for a local charity. In 2017 it was resurrected as a City Centre Resource Church.

Within the Church is the most amazing mural designed by Hans Feibusch, the last surviving artist of Goebbel’s  Degenerate Art exhibition in 1937. It was painted in 1963, shortly after the unveiling of Sutherland’s tapestry in the Cathedral and the similarities are interesting.

Architect Graeme Beamish will talk about the Grade II listed Church and its features. CovSoc Secretary, John Payne, will talk about Hans Feibusch  and his Mural and the role of the Society in getting it recognised in the Listing particulars of the building. The Church team, who have made this visit possible, will tell us about their mission in the city.

All welcome!

CovSoc meetings and visits are free, but we ask for a donation of £2 from non-members towards the cost of refreshments and as a donation to the Church.

Book a ticket via Eventbrite

www.stmarkscoventry.org/

www.coventrysociety.org.uk

Add this event to your Google Calendar

Does it have to be riding roughshod?

Upeeer Precinct

I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Bowing to the big boys without proper consideration for locals, whether they be retailers who have invested in a shop or simply members of the public who care about their city, has to be a bad idea. Currently we have several issues that cause major concerns. The controversy over the Coventry Cross; the proposals for the listed Upper Precinct; the six-year old City Centre South comprehensive redevelopment plan. All hugely controversial and well worth a moment to review each one of them.

Coventry Cross

Whether it’s acceptable to move the Coventry Cross to another location is clearly debatable, but one thing is absolutely certain, it’s a major feature of the medieval Cathedral Quarter and fits well with its sandstone neighbours.

But the Council has decided to favour a nearby Caribbean fusion restaurant, Turtle Bay, that would be the occupier of the land on which the Cross stands.

It might well not be such an issue but for the location of the replica cross within the city’s Hill Top Conservation Area. Demolition within such an area requires any developer to demonstrate that their plan will add to and not reduce the environmental quality of the conservation area. The process for doing this is to prepare a Heritage Statement to support the application. Yet there is no such statement. Not even a proper planning application that members of the public can see. So there is no written justification for the demolition of the Cross. If this all sounds unlikely you can check out the plans on the Council’s Planning Portal. On top of that Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Cllr Jim O’Boyle, has found public money to remove the Cross. Riding roughshod comes to mind.

Upper Precinct

Objections to proposals that would seriously affect the historically important Upper Precinct were submitted by the Twentieth Century Society recently. Here are some pointers from its letter:

‘The covered areas of the public realm are a key feature of the Upper Precinct as a public amenity, and the Society is opposed to their removal. The infill of the colonnade areas is an infringement on the public space that was at the centre of Gibson’s design.

‘The Society is also opposed to the removal of the canopies to M&S and BHS, as these are important period features that create a strong visual link across the axis of the Upper Precinct, Lower Precinct, Market Way and Smithford Way.

‘Proposed alterations to the Upper Precinct and Market Way facades of the former BHS store are in no way sympathetic to the original features of the listed building.

‘The removal of the ramp has the potential to open up views through the Upper Precinct to the Cathedral, however we are concerned that this access has not been provided elsewhere and will have an adverse effect on the circulation around the upper tier. The removal of the bridges between the North and South link blocks will also remove a key feature of the original layout of the Upper Precinct.

‘The proposed entrance archway to the West Orchards Shopping Centre is unsympathetic to the minimal decorative detailing of the original buildings.’

On a positive note we all agree that the removal of the intrusive escalator and proposal to reinstate period railings and lighting to the balcony areas will help restore the Precinct’s heritage status.

We also endorse the Twentieth Century Society’s disappointment when we see that the scheme has undergone minimal revision in light of the newly listed status of the buildings occupying the site.

Of some significance is the Council’s refusal to make the 20th Century letter available to the public.

City Centre South

My article in July said how it’s understandable our City Fathers should want to see our retail offer move up the rankings, but shouldn’t we really be taking a fresh look at the grandiose City Centre South scheme granted outline planning consent all those years ago in 2012. Six years ago! Hasn’t the retail trade moved on since those days? Covolution, the city’s one-stop guide to independent food and drink couldn’t agree more. It said: “ I’d be surprised if the council can even find an ‘anchor’ department store group that is expanding at the moment. The changing retail economy means that most of them are closing stores, rather than opening new ones and because of that, the whole City Centre scheme needs re-thinking. What is expanding is the so-called ‘experience economy’ – and that is all about uniqueness and offering what cannot be had elsewhere. This is where Coventry city centre should be heading – preserving and exploiting its heritage mid-century architecture and promoting independent businesses within it. With a revamp, City Arcade would be the perfect setting.”

So where are we now? Thirty small retailers in the proposed redevelopment area have no security of tenure. According to several traders in the area the Council is offering little or nothing for their future.

However let’s be optimistic. Surely it’s not hard to imagine a thriving enclave of small retailers in a revamped Bull Yard, Shelton Square, City Arcade ‘village’. Is it?

We are still waiting for a meeting with the Council over the City Centre South comprehensive redevelopment plan.

Once again, riding roughshod comes to mind.

Culture is all about heritage and the wonderful stories behind it. Think speciality shops. Think City of Culture 2021.

Keith Draper

Twentieth Century Society Comments on the Plans for the Upper Precinct

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You cannot read the comments made on the Council’s Planning Portal in relation to the Listed Building application to re-shape the Upper Precinct. As a service to Coventry Citizens we reproduce below, with their permission, the comments made about the application by the Twentieth Century Society.

18 September 2018

Dear Liam D’Onofrio,

LB/2018/2494 Upper Precinct Smithford Way Coventry CV1 1QS

The Twentieth Century Society has been notified of the above application. The application seeks listed building consent for alterations to the Grade II listed Upper Precinct. The Society wishes to object to the above application and our comments are set out below.

We were previously consulted on these proposals prior to the listing of the affected buildings, and our comments here closely reflect those submitted on 30 November 2017. We are disappointed to see that the scheme has undergone minimal revision in light of the newly listed status of the buildings occupying the site. Our support remains for the removal of the 1993 escalator and glass housing attached to the North Link block, and we are pleased to see that these unsympathetic additions have been identified as such by the applicants. We do, however, have significant concerns about the harm other proposed alterations will have on the historic interest of several Grade II listed buildings.

The Upper Precinct was the centrepiece of public amenity space laid out in Donald Gibson’s plans for the immediate post-war rebuilding scheme in Coventry City Centre. The shopping precinct connects Broadgate to Smithford Way and Market Way, and is arranged in an axial plan of low-rise blocks sharing a Scandinavian inspired architectural vocabulary. Views of the Cathedral to the west have been partially blocked by the Cathedral Lanes Shopping Centre, however the East-West orientation running through the post-war city centre planning is still clearly legible. The Gibson plan for the rebuilding of Coventry city centre is an early example of mid-century town planning, and the Upper Precinct is the earliest scheme built following his vision for the city. The Upper Precinct is a complete, well-executed and high quality scheme that shares a common architectural vocabulary across a group of privately-designed buildings, with the provision of good public space as a leading priority. The success and importance of the Upper Precinct is reflected in its listing at Grade II. The Society considers the shared scale and detail of the contingent buildings of the Upper Precinct to be highly important. As stated in its listing description, the Upper Precinct provides a clear assertion of “the spirit of the vibrant and re-born city of Coventry”, and the group serves as a strong reminder of the extent of damage suffered during the Second World War.

Public access and circulation

The reconfiguration of access around Coventry city centre, focusing on the separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, was a key aspect of Gibson’s plan. The Upper Precinct is fully pedestrianised and incorporates many features that provide clear wayfinding and a pleasant shopping environment. The Upper Precinct was always intended to have shops on two storeys, with a square walkway at first floor to connect the upper floor of shops. The original stairs to access the upper tier walkway have been removed and were replaced by a brick ramp from Broadgate in 1979, and an additional escalator added to the North Link block, providing access into the later West Orchards Shopping Centre. The Society recognises that the removal of the 1983 escalator will be a positive change, and will enhance the significance of the listed building. The removal of the ramp has the potential to open up views through the Upper Precinct to the Cathedral, however we are concerned that this access has not been provided elsewhere and will have an adverse effect on the circulation around the upper tier. The removal of the bridges between the North and South link blocks will also remove a key feature of the original layout of the Upper Precinct. Whilst the fabric of the original walkways is not original, the circulation pattern remains true to the original design, and so the truncating of the walkways as proposed will result in harm to the architectural significance of the listed building. The Society cannot see that any justification has been given for the loss of the walkway bridges, as this will reduce access and footfall to the first floor shops, and will remove the possibility of raised views towards the Cathedral and the Upper Precinct axis. We recommend that more prominent access stairs and linking walkway bridges be incorporated to facilitate easy public access, maintaining the original design intent.

The Society supports the replacement of the 1993 railings to the walkways with a more sympathetic design. We consider the proposed entrance archway to the West Orchards Shopping Centre to be unsympathetic to the minimal decorative detailing of the original buildings, and this should be reduced in scale and prominence to not overwhelm the listed buildings. We also consider the later landscaping and paving alterations to be unsympathetic to the original design, and we hope the opportunity to rectify this is taken in a revision of these proposals.

Glazing in of North link block colonnade

The covered areas of the public realm are a key feature of the Upper Precinct as a public amenity, and the Society is opposed to their removal. The infill of the colonnade areas is an infringement on the public space that was at the centre of Gibson’s design, and will damage the intended quality and practicality of the space. Symmetry is a clear principle of the original design, and the proposed infilling of the North link block colonnade will dramatically harm the sense of symmetry across the whole scheme, especially with the clear views through the Precinct following removal of the 1979 access ramp. Our previous comments stated that this aspect of the proposals was unacceptable in heritage terms, and we are extremely disappointed that this has not been revised to reflect the level of protection afforded by listed status.

The newly opened space at the Broadgate end of the Upper Precinct will increase the level of daylight reaching the shopfronts, and so this issue will be less prevalent. A projecting first floor is a shared design feature across many of the 1950s buildings in Coventry, including the former Co-Operative store in Corporation Street (G S HAY, 1954-6), and is a clear example of the influence of Corbusian principles in Gibson’s vision for the city centre. The underlying quality of the original design is still clear despite later unsympathetic additions, and we are optimistic that these proposals can be revised in a respectful manner.

M&S and BHS canopy removal

The Society is also opposed to the removal of the canopies to M&S and BHS, as these are important period features that create a strong visual link across the axis of the Upper Precinct, Lower Precinct, Market Way and Smithford Way, and will harm the quality of the public space that was integral to Gibson’s plan. The argument for maximising visibility of retail space is considered to be insufficient justification to justify the harm proposed to the listed building. The M&S canopy is pierced with glass lights to allow daylight to reach the pavement and mark the building’s main entrance, and this could be reinstated in the BHS canopy to enhance the building’s architectural significance.

Façade alterations

Our previous comments stated that the proposed alterations to shopfronts and new glazing throughout the scheme would entirely change the nature of the buildings, and these proposals have not been reconsidered since the buildings were listed. The proposed alterations to the Upper Precinct and Market Way facades of the former BHS store are in no way sympathetic to the original features of the listed building. The building’s list description states that “the building has clear interest for the sophisticated design of its facades, with elegant detailing and good quality materials” and the Society considers the current proposals will cause substantial harm to these elements. Subtle features including spandrel panels, glazing pattern with projecting surrounds, and muted palette of materials are shared across the Upper Precinct, and this applications proposes the first major alteration to the external facades of the group of listed buildings. We do not consider the potential benefits resulting from the proposals to meet the criteria justifying harm to a listed building as set out in the NPPF (paragraph 194):

Any harm to, or loss of, the significance of a designated heritage asset (from its alteration or destruction, or from development within its setting), should require clear and convincing justification.

Substantial harm to or loss of:

a) grade II listed buildings, or grade II registered parks or gardens, should be exceptional;

Our previous comments expressed opposition to the proposed insertion of a framed corner window to the former Leofric Hotel, now Mercia House. Again, this harmful proposal has not reconsidered in the revision of the scheme. There is no precedent for this style of window in any of the original buildings, and it is entirely inconsistent with the symmetrical layout of glazing and decorative features currently carried across the Upper Precinct. We are greatly disappointed that these proposals show general disregard for the dictating symmetry shared across the whole of the Upper Precinct. This shows a clear lack of attention paid to the fundamental design elements that link the individual buildings together, and ignores the elements that reveal the influence of Gibson’s plan on the composition of this small group of buildings.

Comments

The Society is pleased to see that investment in Coventry’s post-war buildings and spaces is being prioritised, however we fundamentally disagree with the approach of this application. It is unacceptable that these harmful proposals have not been drastically revised following the listing of all of the buildings on the site. As an organisation with expertise in twentieth century architecture, we are disappointed that our previous advice has been ignored by the applicant. We hope that these proposals are reconsidered in favour of a conservation-led approach, dictated by a respect for the buildings’ architectural significance and the importance of the civic character of the original composition. The Society considers this to be an opportunity to revive the vitality and refinement of the Upper Precinct, however we have no choice but to object to the proposals in their current form.

I trust that these comments are of use to you. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further queries.

Yours sincerely,

 

Grace Etherington

Caseworker

Twentieth Century Society

Follow this link to see the full Listed Building Application on the Council’s Planning Portal