Comments on proposed two flats at Fawkes Place S.14/2616/FUL December 2014

Comments submitted by Tim Mars, representing the Civic Society, to SDC on 18th December:

Stroud Civic Society’s submission in respect of proposals to erect two flats on the site of a garage at Fawkes Place.  This application was only drawn to our attention on 16 December 2014, the deadline for representations, so apologies for this late submission.

This an important site right in the heart of Stroud, and a rare new-build opportunity.  Given this, Stroud Civic Society wishes to OBJECT to the proposed development on the grounds that it is unworthy of such a crucial centrally-located site, an inadequate response lacking both the ambition and imagination to unlock its true potential.

The applicants should be asked to reconsider and submit a more ambitious scheme representing a more intensive redevelopment, which would be more appropriate to such a key site and also offer a greater potential return.

I have been to look at the site (which I know well anyway) and examined the plans and documentation in detail.

This is a modest and unobjectionable scheme but lacking ambition.  It is a sorry waste of the potential of the site.

The site is hidden behind a high wall adjoining Mother Nature on Bedford Street.

Proposed site plan:

The site is currently occupied by a collapsed pre-cast concrete garage.

This is the site plan as existing showing the footprint of the garage.

The proposed building slavishly occupies almost exactly the same footprint as the garage, though extending further north-east towards Fawkes Place.

What is proposed is a two-storey building finished in red brick, under a hipped slate roof.  The last drawing of the side elevation to the south (in the link below) shows the building in relation to Mother Nature and the other adjoining building.  The fenestration (it is to be hoped that the windows are to be wooden rather than uPVC) and the hipped roof are clearly deferential to Mother Nature.

The ground-floor bedroom windows look out onto a high wall two metres away, which is far from ideal.  The retention of the wall means the bedroom windows face out into what is to all intents and purposes little more than a light-well.

Which comes to the nub of the objection to this scheme — the retention of the wall to Bedford Street and way the new building slavishly occupies almost exactly the same footprint as the existing garage.

Assuming the applicants own the entire site as outlined —
— a larger three-storey building with a frontage directly onto Bedford Street would be a more appropriate, intensive and beneficial use of the site, with a retail unit on the ground floor and two larger and more spacious flats above.  It would also be an opportunity positively to enhance Bedford Street rather than hiding away behind the wall.

Ground-floor flats are inherently unattractive and compromised, and the one proposed is particularly depressing with its bedroom windows facing out onto a high wall.  In this location, flats on the first and second-floor would be likely to prove more attractive to sell or rent, and would command a higher premium.

A retail unit in this location would be centrally located, easily accessible from the High Street, Kendrick Street, George Street and Threadneedle Street, and would contribute to the retail vitality, variety and diversity of the town centre.  Several retail units are located nearby.

It is argued by the applicant that:

  • The proposal would increase overlooking and surveillance in Fawkes Place and along parts of Bedford Street.  This can only help to promote a safe and accessible environment and thereby reduce the fear of crime.

Which is true enough, but even more applicable to a three-storey building with flats on the upper levels.

To sum up: this is a modest, unexceptional and unobjectionable scheme, a great improvement on what currently exists, but lacks both the ambition and imagination to unlock the potential of such a crucial site.

The applicants should be asked to reconsider in the light of these comments.

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