Spatial Policy & Delivery Team
Planning Application No. 16/00865/FULM - Beaconsfield House
The Comments of Lichfield Civic Society regarding the above application are as follows:
The Society believes that this application presents some very important challenges for the historic core of the City, challenges that if not controlled will ultimately lead to changes in its historic value that will reduce rather than enhance its interest to residents and visitors alike. The Society has always welcomed contemporary architecture that is successfully integrated into the existing context, with the extensions to the Police Mutual building being an outstanding example.
The first thing that stands out in viewing this plan is the almost aggressive unsuitability of the elevations to the the intimacy of its surroundings, both in its scale and in its architectural character. This abrogates the intentions of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) stating that proposals should 'enhance and improve the places in which people live'. The sheer obtrusiveness and bulk of the proposal introduces an alien element into a very tight area.
The proposal is aggressively over-scaled compared with the general character of its surroundings which exhibit a variety of scales and roof-lines. The proposal's over-scaling is only exacerbated by the monolithic nature of the design of the frontage which is basically a long shaded void contained within a light surrounding frame. The overall effect of this feature is overpowering, any detailing contained within the frontage being subordinate.
The NPPF also states in section 4.3.8 'that the new development should seek to promote or reinforce local distinctiveness, ... and ensure that new development is integrated into its new environment'. The proposal is clearly completely at odds with the general tenor of the Historic Centre with its characteristic scale, function, form and variety. It represents a building that could be seen just anywhere.
The Society maintains that contemporary architecture provides a profusion of alternative scales, forms and materials that would be much more suitable in achieving many of the aims of the applicants and urges that they seek an alternative architectural language to further their project. Another problem with the proposal is its failure to assert a specific building type. The concept of Building Types has fallen out of favour in recent times especially with major projects but in more modest schemes such as this it is clearly relevant. Dwellings in this heritage context should look different from what might be arguably acceptable in a suburban context.
Overall the proposal's design is ambiguous in conveying any specific function. It could easily serve elsewhere as a hospital unit, a technical college, or a hotel - the design possesses nothing residential about it in its anonymous character whereas in the heritage context that it attempts to support it should be related to a lively mixture of homely and public activities, formal, recreational and social.
Only a very radical revision of the design in detail and context will ameliorate the inappropriateness of the current proposal as it is not only a prime example of overdevelopment in a very sensitive area of Lichfield but also of a flawed idea of what is fitting in a historic zone.