'HARMFUL' PLANNING APPLICATIONS REFUSED
On October 31st 2013 Colchester's Planning Committee met to decide the applications (one for change of use, one for the listed building) to enclose Jumbo's legs in grey glass and insert nine new floors and a museum in the tank.
Despite overwhelmingly positive presentations of the scheme in the press and the enthusiastic support of planning officers, the applications were refused by an emphatic 7 votes to 3.
English Heritage had stated:
The Balkerne Water Tower is a structure of exceptional architectural and historic significance … English Heritage considers that the proposed works would cause substantial harm to the building's significance.
Planning Officers said that in their opinion the harm done was 'less than substantial' but most of the committee preferred the judgement of English Heritage. Cllr Gerard Oxford, who proposed refusal, described the scheme as 'hideous'.
As well as opposition from English Heritage, the scheme was strongly opposed by the Victorian Society, SAVE Britain's Heritage and the Balkerne Gardens Trust, representing over 100 residents living close to Jumbo.
The Victorian Society had declared Jumbo to be one of the ten most endangered buildings in Britain, due to the danger of 'insensitive development'.
The museum proposal, stated to be a 'key benefit' of the scheme, in fact promised very little. BTT was invited to rent space in a museum closed for 9 months of the year, the applicant collecting entrance charges and £500 a time for 'corporate events'.
As a charity we do not wish – and could not – subsidise a privately owned museum over which we have no control, and which could close at any time.
The applicant could appeal within six months.
English Heritage recommended:
If [your Council] concludes the applications should be refused, it should commit itself to securing the future of the tower by promoting an alternative approach.
We would welcome an approach along these lines by the Council and other interested parties.
This scheme was considered unacceptable in the past and – we strongly advise – remains so now. We therefore urge you to refuse consent for this damaging application.
We … have serious concerns that the proposed development outlined in these planning applications is neither suitable nor appropriate.