New railings for Minster Pool

A lengthy discussion was held following feedback of the meeting with Lichfield District Council project managers about the inappropriate and visually damaging installation of new metal railings at Minster Pool. As soon as we became aware of the situation contact was made with the Council on 27th October requesting a meeting on site with the Portfolio Holder. Following further requests a meeting with two officials eventually took place on 22 November after the Council had already decided not to make any changes.

Unsurprisingly the officials tried to defend the visually damaging work they have been responsible for implementing. It appears the Council accepted, without question, external advice that a fence of 1.1 or 1.2 metres was necessary for health and safety reasons and then further increased the height to 1.3 metres. Our liaison with RoSPA indicates that part of the advice used by the Council was withdrawn by RoSPA over 8 years ago because, as in this case, it was being inappropriately applied and a lower fence could have been provided.

A key part of the Council's defence is that they consulted widely and no one raised any concerns before work commenced. Even if it was true that no concerns were raised the design that was made public was substantially changed in March 2010 for a cheaper and less attractive one. No public consultation about this change was undertaken so th defence on this aspect is clearly flawed. The Council is hoping that when the fence is painted black and the footpath levels significantly raised to try to diminish the adverse impact (something not evident in the original plans) that the public will accept the situation.

The Council Leader, Councillor Mike Wilcox, has said they will review the matter when work is completed. A petition from Society members was received at our last public meeting expressing concern about the height of the fence and said that "If the railings are allowed to remain the tranquil scene will continue to suffer the brutal urbanising we now see." It is evident from press coverage that there is also broader public concern about this unfortunate and unnecessary problem.

The most perplexing aspect of this situation is that the local planning authority with all its skills and expertise in planning and conservation should be erecting such an unsuitable, unattractive and excessively high fence in the most important and sensitive of places. Protection of local views and vistas in this specific location feature in the adopted Local Plan and conservation are policy documents produced by the Council. Unfortunately the protection envisaged in those documents is not being observed in this case.

The progression of these works without either an application for planning permission or conservation area consent may have contributed to the lack of scrutiny and denied the Council members and English Heritage the opportunity to consider the proposals in the formal planning processes. The Executive Committee unanimously decided to continue to actively pursue this matter and will be making representations to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) about the use of public money on railings which are so damaging to local views of the Pool and th setting of the Cathedral. We will, after we have written to the HLF, be asking members who are concerned to write to the HLF expressing their concerns.