Rotherham Council breaches its own planning rules — 'smothering' historic building

Rotherham Council breaches its own planning rules — 'smothering' historic building

By Gareth Dennison | 18/10/2019

Rotherham Council breaches its own planning rules — 'smothering' historic building
Maurice Healy at Wellgate Old Hall

ROTHERHAM Council’s proposals for 34 apartments in the town centre breach the authority’s own planning guidelines.

The local plan — adopted last summer to determine new applications — included a requirement of a buffer to protect views of Wellgate Old Hall.

But RMBC’s own proposals for an apartment block either side of the grade II-listed building — plus 20 houses behind — do not take this into account.

Hall owner Maurice Healy said: “The council says there should be a building line running in line with rear elevation of Wellgate Old Hall. That’s their comment, not mine. It’s their recommendation.

“I rang the planning officer up and said: ‘What about your own advice? They said it was only advice, which I wasn’t very impressed with. This isn’t just a little technicality.”

The local plan guidelines for the site — formerly home to Henley’s garage — say: “It is essential that development reflects the existing character and quality of the wider townscape to improve the historic character and sense of place.

“On the Wellgate frontage, a building line to be established, running in line with the rear elevation of Wellgate Old Hall. This area should be a visual buffer ensuring that views of the hall along Wellgate are not obscured.”

But the plans drawn up for RMBC by Bond Bryan Architects show the proposed development surrounding the hall, rather than being in line with the back of the building.

Mr Healy, who bought the building at auction in 2001, added: “It is one of the very few ancient buildings remaining in Rotherham.

“It should should be treated as a fragile old lady and not smothered to death by overdevelopment.

“Wellgate Old Hall is that old lady taking her centre seat on Ryanair, looking forward to a peaceful four-hour flight to Tenerife, only to be joined by two 30st sumo wrestlers either side and 20 rowdy football club members behind.”

The original parts of the building date back to the 14th century. In a royal charter of 1589, Queen Elizabeth I referred to the hall as “my cottage on Wellgate”.

Mr Healy (73) said: “I wonder what she would have said to this proposed development? 

“Regrettably, I will not be driving down Wellgate for many more years but my grandchildren and great grandchildren will, to enjoy one of Rotherham’s gems.

“I appreciate there is a need for regeneration but please employ more sympathetic architecture to this prominent site at this major gateway to Rotherham for the sake of future generations.”

Rotherham District Civic Society has objected, saying the development would be inappropriate within the setting of the hall.

A spokesman added: “Why is the authority not following its own policies in regard to these developments?”

“We are also disappointed that a reputable firm of architects could put their names to such a featureless set of buildings.” 

Previous plans by a private developer for flats in 2005 never came to fruition.

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