St Julie’s & Woolton Woods: The deadline nears!

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The planning application put in over Christmas for the demolition and rebuilding of St Julie’s school has been cancelled and a new one put in – 15F/0067 on the council’s website. There is also an application for altering the stone boundary wall between the school and the field (15L/0072). Site notices have been put up dated 20th January 2015 giving 21 days for objections ie by 10th Feb – though the Council’s website says 12th Feb. I can’t work out how to make objections online so the safest bet is probably to put them in writing. The application includes a mass of supporting documents but the key ones to look at are the existing site plan (12017-115), the proposed site plan (1207-116)  and the heritage statement. The plans show that the new school will be built 30 to 70 metres closer to the village (ie on the 5% of the field often referred to) and will be substantially higher than the existing buildings. I am trying to get a graphic to demonstrate this but the one on the Liverpool Express blog (Liverpool Express: More public open space to be created in St Julie’s) gives some idea (though this one is not totally accurate).

The heritage statement gives a good summary of the qualities of the conservation area and sets out what the Council expects from new development in conservation areas (page 25 UDP Policy HD11 – I have picked the appropriate bits):

Proposals for new development in conservation areas will be permitted having regard to the following criteria:

– the development pays special attention to conserving the essential elements which combine to give the area its special character and does not introduce changes which would detract from the character or appearance of the area

–  the proposal protects important views and vistas within, into and out of the conservation area.

The statement assesses the significance of the conservation area and draws attention to (page 28 Again, I have chosen the appropriate bits):

  • A distinctive topography which creates long range views
  • A rich skyline punctuated by spires, towers and pediments

The statement accepts that (page 30):

The area to the rear (north) of Woolton Hall, has been developed with a variety of school buildings which are just a few metres from the listed building. They severely restrict views of the Hall outside the site and even from most locations within the site and have massively changed its setting.

In assessing the effect of the new school building the statement argues (page 36) that:

The new development will reflect the orthogonal nature of Woolton hall and make a positive contribution to the local character and distinctiveness of the area.

And:

The open character of the land which is proposed to be developed does at present allow views over it from the north but the current views are towards the current unsightly building of St Julie’s school and their replacement with a co-ordinated design for the new school buildings will be an enhancement of that view.

‘Orthoganol’ comes from the Greek for ‘right angle’. I think the author means ‘huge box’. While the existing school is an eyesore, we should be taking the opportunity to improve matters. Rebuilding with what amounts to a huge box that does not reflect the character of the buildings in the village, higher that the existing buildings and 30 – 70 metres closer to the village, will be a retrograde step. A more careful and respectful design would have had the new buildings set well back from the existing field and wall. The main reason why they are not seems to be that they want to build the new while the existing buildings are in place.

A truly independent author of the heritage statement might have agreed with these suggestions, but no (Conclusion page 39);

The development will deliver some very beneficial impacts for the heritage assets in enhancing the setting of Woolton Hall and the visual amenity of the conservation area

Overall, the statement demonstrates that there is no justifiable reason why the proposed development should be refused for reasons of impact on the heritage assets.

Well, there you have it. The author of the statement is presumably a freelance contractor who is not going to rock the boat.

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