CAMPAIGNING residents have drawn up their battle plans to fight controversial proposals to build “brutalist” urban homes on rural land next to green belt at Gappenhall Heys, Warrington.
Local residents Dr Alastair King and Steve Jackson from Grappenhall Heys Residents Group have written a letter outlining the group’s objections to Warrington’s Development Control Committee.
Residents are angry because they feel an Urban Design is being forced onto a rural Community and that they have been “disempowered by an unjustified Homes England Decision” with “a design that doesn’t feel sustainable” and “ a design that will fundamentally change the character of our community.”
They also say it will involve “a design that disrespects the precedents established over 20 years and ignores the upheld objections of Phases 1a and 1b” and will be “a design that increases our risks to traffic, crime and anti-social behaviour.”
In their letter to development control residents say they are dismayed that their community is being put in the “unacceptable position of having to comment on a Reserved Matters submission that is so alien and radically different in its appearance, layout, scale and overall (urban) concept as compared to the existing suburban character of Grappenhall Heys.”
They believe that Warrington Borough Council had no say in the Homes England decision to appoint Urban Splash as the developer to complete the seventh phase of the local settlement.
They hope Warrington planners will rigorously be applying the existing local and national policies, as they have done in other phases, and that they can retain the valuable precedents and visual amenities that make their community and protects the area from the consequences of poor and inappropriate design.
The campaign group say they are very supportive of the principles in the local and national planning policies:
However, they feel that the current Reserved Matters submission by Urban Splash fails to comply with all of these, especially given the overall design principles and precedents that currently exist throughout Grappenhall Heys and that are being incorporated into Phase 1a & 1b.
Whilst there are many detailed objections, the campaign group so these can be summarised under six key headings:
A. Architectural Collision.
There is a fundamental architectural collision between housing styles and materials of the existing settlement and the proposed development. Residents strongly object to this “brutalist shift” in style that Homes England and Urban Splash are imposing on the area. Specifically focusing on the northern borders of the site, especially where it meets Lichfield Avenue and Curzon Drive. Residents would have expected, through a combination of green space, bunds or road layout, a more sympathetic transition to accommodate the stark contrast in architectural design. Currently, there is minimal recognition or respect of the 2 storey detached, pitched/tiled roof architecture of this formative phase of the existing Grappenhall Heys, especially as it represents circa 70% of the impacted border. Phase 1b and parts of Boddington Drive will also be impacted given it too retains the detached and pitched roof design however we appreciate that 2.5 and 3 storey homes are more prevalent in these locations.
B. Protecting Surrounding Woodland
As well as the use of green space and roads to transition the conflicting styles residents would also have expected the same approach to be used to protect the surrounding woodland. Phase 2 land is bordered by existing woodland, much like the Astor Drive and Rowland Homes developments. In both these phases, the woodlands have been protected by a buffer zone and the angling of houses so they look onto the woodland rather than backing onto them. There are many ecological, social and security reasons for this which residents feel are well documented in previous planning submissions and also highlighted by the Cheshire Police’s comments on the current proposal.
C. Orientation of Open Spaces
This is linked to the woodland issue mentioned above in that open spaces (including play areas) should also be protected by having houses facing onto them. Again there are social and security issues when these spaces are not protected by a sense of shared ownership which have been well documented. There is a clear precedent for this across the whole of the existing settlement (e.g. play area on Stansfield Drive, greenspace on Astor Drive, greenspace on Dashwood Close) and at the nearby new Bloor development at Appleton Thorn.
D. Location of 3 Storey Houses
The topography of the land along the Curzon Drive boundary and the southern section of the roundabout with Curzon Drive/Lichfield Avenue is amongst the highest for many miles. The location of the tallest buildings (3 storey Town House complexes) in this area will dominate the visual outlook within the estate. Moreover, it will change the architectural focus of the entire surrounding area.
E. Clustering of House Styles
The proposed concentrated clustering of similar housing styles within a very rigid, grid-pattern, especially apparent amongst the town and row houses, makes the contrast in architectural styles much more obvious both within the new development and between the existing and new developments. Moreover, this creates physical and social barriers, for example around “The Copse”.
If styles could be more evenly distributed and sight lines improved through curved roads and angled housing this would be more in-line with other existing phases.
F. Curzon Drive Access
Curzon Drive is now proposed to be the main residential access road for over 330 houses (existing and phases 1b and 2), breaching policy guidelines (max. 300 dwellings). Furthermore, the access plans do not incorporate the outline planning permission guidance (2017) which proposed extending Witherwin Avenue to facilitate improved traffic access to Phase 2, both during and post
construction. In addition, the on-street parking and reduced parking ratios will pose a massive risk to access especially for emergency and service vehicles.
In summary local residents believe that planning policies are there to protect communities from poor and inappropriate design and hope that the Reserved Matters process will be as rigorous as it has been for previous phases and that it will trigger a more constructive dialogue between our community, Urban Splash and WBC in order to make the final phase of Grappenhall Heys a success.
Warrington South MP Andy Carter is backing local residents and has held meetings with Homes England and Urban Splash.
He said: “This is a reserved matter where planning approval has already been granted to build homes, the discussion is really about the type of homes being built and how they are set out.
“I’ve met with representatives from Grappenhall Heys residents group twice, Urban Splash the developer and Homes England.
“During my meetings with homes England I’ve raised a number of issues on behalf of the residents in relation to the choice of developer, who has significant experience in regenerating areas, but less of a track record of building on the green belt. Residents are very keen to see a development that won’t look out of place. The decision will be taken by Councillors on the development management committee and anyone with concerns should feed their comments to planners at Warrington Council.”
*Brutalist architecture, is a style that emerged in the 1950s and grew out of the early-20th century modernist movement. Brutalist buildings are characterised by their massive, monolithic and ‘blocky’ appearance with a rigid geometric style and large-scale use of poured concrete.