Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Builder's Dump for Sale, Please Apply

This 'Rat infested heap' in Westgate's Ethelbert Square, marks the remains of the 'Bungalow', a conservation area building I tried to protect from development earlier in the year.

As you will see from the photograph, what replaces the building is not exactly 'In-keeping' with the neighbouring properties and hardly reflects the developers plans for a project that would almost seamlessly mirror adjoining buildings in a sympathetic manner.

A year ago, at the planning meeting where the decision to accept its demolition was made, I made a rather passionate speech about the need to protect our conservation area here in Westgate, which lies in constant danger of being trampled upon by cynical  commercial interest. The list of buildings to date, Sea Tower, the Bungalow, Harold Ave, Beach Rise and many more, makes me deeply pessimistic about a process of preservation  and local conservation which appears to hold very little weight against planning  legislation stacked heavily in favour of the developer. We either have a conservation area or we don't and if we don't, then let's do away with the pretense and the hope and effort of trying to protect what we can't.

In the example shown in the photo, we now have a derelict wreck which has been sold on by the original developer and I'm told that a effort is being made to sell it on again. I'm also told that the site should have been cleared but the penalty for non-compliance is so low, that whoever owns it can't be bothered and if they happen to be in administration, then there's no point in chasing them either!

So Westgate is left with a derelict, long-term heap of builder's rubble right in the middle of its conservation area. It's a problem that I'm going to be exploring further into the New Year but I fear that it's only one small symptom of a much greater national malaise, in that our threadbare democracy has been steadily emasculated by changes and constant meddling in the planning legislation which rather makes local conservation an aspiration rather than a practical objective.


Ken Gregory said...

Well, it really should be developed to its full potential, but I would surmise that the developer is waiting for the land/house value to pick up. Soonest we get out of this government organised slump the better.

DrMoores said...

Apparently work on the site is now promised to start in January or the council will take action. Fingers crossed then!