Development Control Manager
Lichfield District Council
District Council House
Frog Lane
WS13 6YZ

Planning Application No: 17/00049/FUL - St Marys Church, Market Street

Dear Miss Morgan,

Re: 17/00049/FUL - Various internal and external alterations to form library on ground floor with museum and community facilities on first floor, St Marys Church
Re: 17/00050/LBC - Works to listed building to enable various internal and external alterations to form library on ground floor with museum and community facilities on first floor, St Marys Church

The Lichfield Civic Society's comments are as follows:-

1. Historic & conservation issues

There are several areas of concern directly related to planning considerations. Some points of detail that might normally be dealt with as reserved matters are raised on the basis we consider a comprehensive resolution of factors that could adversely affect the impact of the proposals on a Grade 2* building in such a prominent and important location should be resolved at this stage.

2. Internal

In general, the scheme has the potential for welcome improvements by opening up the interior with removal of modern internal partitions and other alterations to improve views within the building.

3. Listed fittings

a. Stalls

The details accompanying the planning application and listed building consent application are not sufficiently clear or explicit to fully understand what is proposed in relation to fittings that are mentioned in the Historic England listing. The following is an extract from the listing:

"Fittings: richly carved altar, reredos and panelling to east wall, sedilia recess with deep canopy to south, vestry door of 2 orders and good organ case, war memorial to north of altar, timber stalls and altar rail; north aisle has triptych in alabaster frame: ...".

The listing indicates that all timber stalls are part of the listing. Three stalls, incorrectly described on the plans as pews, are being retained in the Chapel/Chancery areas. It needs to be confirmed that all the listed stalls, including the stall desk with holders for the Mayor's Mace and Sword, are expressly included in the fittings to be retained. Otherwise the importance of the stalls as a functional 'ensemble piece' will not have been appreciated or understood. Splitting them up into their component parts means they cannot fully assume their function at times of Mayoral and Worshipful Company of Smiths services or for Guild and Festival concert/organ uses. It also needs to be confirmed there are no alterations or modifications proposed to the retained stalls.

We believe that to be able to comment on or consider the listed building consent application the applicant should have explicitly stated if there any of the fittings or features of the building described in the listing that are not to be retained without alteration. In respect of any of the listed fittings or features it is proposed to change, hide or obscure, relocate, or remove there should be a detailed schedule setting out the specific proposals and their justification.

b. Organ

The retention of the organ is helpful for continuation of the limited number of historic services held in the building by the City Council and Worshipful Company of Smiths. To conserve the organ regular use is advisable and a condition to this effect would be appropriate.

4. Security

We strongly welcome the security recommendations of the Police Architectural Liaison Officer. The issue of CCTV being needed within the building, particularly in the Local History Centre and Museum, was raised by the Society in writing in December 2016 with County Council officers. We do not yet know if they intend acting upon this issue. The plans indicate that there is no means of restricting access to the first floor when the library is open nor does the Local History Centre or Museum have doors to provide security. The Local History Centre although part of an Archives service initiative will not be manned or supervised by that service nor by the County Council library staff on the ground floor of the building. If effectively most of the first floor it is open and unmanned with no control over access or usage other than reliance upon staff or volunteers from St Mary's there is significant risk of damage, theft, or vandalism. Much of the photographic archive is irreplaceable and is the property of depositors. The Society has its main collection of photographs there. The same security issues apply to the Museum on the first floor. The dramatically reduced space for the Museum and display of items suggests that smaller or historically important items will be those on display potentially increasing the likelihood of attempted or successful theft. It is worth remembering that at the former City Museum in Bird Street display cabinets were smashed to steal items including irreplaceable medals on loan from the Staffordshire Regiment Museum.

There is no indication of temperature or humidity control equipment installation for either the Local History Centre or Museum. If this is needed for conservation of these collections this needs careful planning to ensure there is no unsightly equipment on the external elevation of the building.

5. External

a. Lowering cills on two windows

In principle, the concept of improved visibility through lowering of cills of two windows on the North elevation is valid. However, the Police observations regarding anti-social behaviour need to addressed by omitting the proposal or preferably by taking other measures, if feasible, to prevent those activities from occurring.

b. Glass entrance structure and glass fire exit doors

The Jeff Kahane example given in the Design, Access, and Heritage Statement (DAHS) is of a residential property in North Yorkshire not a public building. The Library and Tourist Information Centre access will have a significant number of users entering and leaving. Whilst in principle the concept of a glass structure appears suitable the key question is whether it would be as inconspicuous and acceptable as implied by the drawings. Apart from the structural elements and door opening mechanism there is a need for information about opening hours and the function of the building to be displayed prominently at the entrance. How will this be achieved whilst retaining a clutter and fly posting free appearance to the structure initially and in the longer term?

The marking of the glass fire exit doors to indicate to those outside the building that they are for emergency use only needs to be done in a clear and acceptable manner. This will avoid confusion for those looking to enter the building.

c. Signage for the Library, Tourist Information Centre and other uses

No direct mention is made of signage being attached to the building itself or the entrance structure and this aspect should form part of a comprehensive assessment at this stage to ensuring an acceptable appearance for the building which does not detract from its character or its setting. The design should ensure that outside opening hours there is clearly and attractively displayed up to date tourism information including visitor accommodation in the City and district.

John Thompson
Lichfield Civic Society,
March 2nd, 2017