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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Walton Head, Pannal, North Yorkshire (late 1940’s)

© Photograph Copyright Carol and Maj Nadry

This must be one of the last brick, public water supply towers built, as reinforced concrete was being extensively used for water towers at this time. The water tower was built by Harrogate Corporation Waterworks Department to serve the village of Kirkby Overblow. We don't have an exact build date, but know that Harrogate council purchased the land for the water tower in 1946. Some of the internal pipework has “STAVELEY 1949” in relief, and anecdotal evidence suggests the build date as being late 1940's. The brick tower supports a sectional cast iron tank of 37,500 gallons. The tower went out of service and fell into the shabby state above… Eventually Yorkshire Water, who became the owners of the tower, obtained planning permission for conversion to a dwelling, in 2010 and put the tower up for sale. The tower has been purchased by BWTAS members Carol and Maj Nadry who have restored and sympathetically transformed this tower into a good looking dwelling, retaining an industrial look.

© Photograph Copyright Carol and Maj Nadry

We are most grateful to be supplied with these photographs, as the tower is completely surrounded by trees. It is located at O.S. Grid Ref. SE 31393 50880. The tower's conversion should feature on Channel 4's "Restoration Man" at some time in the future.

Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there… The planning permission that Yorkshire Water obtained, showed the tank removed in the plans, although this was not a specific condition (they had assumed the tank was not saveable). By installing 20 tons of steel reinforcements and spending a lot of money, the tank was saved! They now find that they have to retrospectively apply for planning permission to retain the tank. Unfortunately their neighbours, 120 yards away on the other side of the trees, want the tank removed. Comments on this planning application can be made by the public here.

BWTAS acknowledges Nicholas De Taranto from Tiger Aspect, for some of the information in this post.

Ferrers

Update 17/10/2014: I am pleased to report that unconditional approval to retain the tank, has been granted.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Iconic Bracebridge Heath water tower to be demolished


from Lincolnshire Echo:


Landmark water tower to make way for £40 million Bracebridge Heath development








LANDMARK: The water tower at St John's in Bracebridge Heath.


A landmark water tower will be removed from a village near Lincoln as work on the first phase of a £40 million housing development nears completion.


The iconic 90-year-old tower is in the grounds of the derelict St John's Hospital site at Bracebridge Heath.


And it will disappear later this month as developers transform the former Victorian mental asylum into St John's Village.


Phase one of the 183 luxury homes and apartments, including 77 new-build family homes, in the spacious grounds of the 18-acre site will be completed in August.


And Bracebridge Heath Parish Council chairman John Kilcoyne said the demise of the tower was inevitable.


And it is set to be demolished over the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13.


"The parish council accepted that the water tower would not survive the development of the hospital buildings into apartments and houses," Mr Kilcoyne said.


"While we would have liked to keep the tower as a landmark, we realised it was not suitable for a residential development.


"It is also not original to the hospital design, being built in the 1920s, and is not in a good condition.


"The concrete would not last indefinitely, and it was felt better to take it down at this point.


"North Kesteven District Council accepted this when planning permission was granted."


Read the rest of the story http://www.lincolnshireecho.co.uk/


What the parish council and the developers haven't said is this tower is a fine example of early reinforced concrete water tower construction, demonstrating with its lightweight form the huge potential of this then new material and the confidence that civil engineers were beginning to have in it. Barton considers the Bracebridge tower "combines a remarkable slenderness with elegance of form..." p73 The Water Towers of Britain

When innovative materials and techniques become available, no civil engineer wants to 'push the envelope' too far but with Bracebridge, Barton asserts that water towers of the 1920's started to have a  "certain resonance with the spirit of the age and gave rise to a number of remarkably bold reinforced concrete structures... which it is doubtful would have been built at a later date".


Built circa 1924, the tower is 125 feet tall with footings remarkably only five feet deep.

The 22ft 8in diameter tank holds 30,000 gallons and is supported on six slightly splayed legs spreading to a diameter of only 23 feet at the base.
http://www.ukurbex.co.uk/

According to English Heritage (who reference Barton) the tower was built by Charles Horobin of the Indented Bar and Concrete Engineering Company but it did not meet the criteria for listed status as the attendant laundry had been previously demolished.




Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Bishopthorpe, North Yorkshire (1863-1946)

Photographer: Mrs. Nicholson. (Bishopthorpe Community Archive)

The existence of Archbishop Thomson's water tower, has only recently come to the attention of the British Water Tower Appreciation Society. The fascinating storey of this water tower, built in 1863 and sadly demolished in 1946, is told on Bishopthorpe Local History Group's web site. The tower was located on Acaster Lane between Main Street and Ferry Lane, at what I can best estimate to be at O.S. Grid Ref. SE 59616 47597.

Ferrers

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Rye cistern, East Sussex (1735)

© Photograph Copyright David Harrison

Not a water tower, as the tank is not elevated – water is stored in the domed, oval brick storage tank, that extends 3 feet beneath ground level providing 20,000 gallons of storage. Above this, the upper portion has a gauge board indicating the water level and presumably contained a pump to extract water from a well and/or distribute the water. Located in the grounds of St Mary's church, in what was known as Pump Street, now Church Square, at O.S. Grid Ref. TQ 92176 20322, this now grade II* listed building was erected in 1735 as part of a scheme costing £600 to improve the town’s water supply. However, the cistern's proximity to the butcher's area caused some problems - in 1754, several calves feet were found in it! BWTAS would like to thank David Harrison for sending us the photograph, taken on 1st May 2009.

Ferrers

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

"Jumbo" goes up for sale again…

After purchasing Colchester's iconic, Grade II* listed, "Jumbo" water tower for a whopping £330,000, back in February 2006, Mr. Braithwaite seems to have concluded that there is no viable commercial use for the building. He is putting the tower up for auction on the 29th of May… As reported in the Colchester Gazette, no reserve has been put on the sale, and our friends at the Balkerne Tower Trust, believe they have a once in a lifetime opportunity, to acquire this icon for the people of Colchester - if they can raise sufficient funds. If you are interested in what they propose to do with the building, or wish to help them in their endeavour to purchase the water tower, please visit their web site: www.savejumbo.org.uk.

Note: that the Balkerne Tower Trust is a distinct entity and not part of the British Water Tower Appreciation Society.

Update: Jumbo sold for a staggering £190,000 - out of reach of the Balkerne Tower Trust.

Ferrers

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Appleton, Norfolk (1877)

High Level BWTAS Meeting…



Back in December of last year, BWTAS committee member, Brian Light, was holidaying at the Appleton water tower that is now a holiday let. Unfortunately he could not open the tower up to the whole membership, but the committee took the opportunity of meeting up there. This is an impressive example of an ornate Victorian water tower built to impress. As well as exploring the fantastic tower (some images at the end) and taking in the view from the roof, where the 1951 Docking water tower can be seen in the distance at TF 76150 36646, inside we found a book of information on this tower. Charlotte Lennox Boyd had compiled the "Appleton Water Tower History Album" comprising her research regarding this tower and the people involved, along with photocopies from publications. One of the most comprehensive reviews of the water tower and its supply was in “Engineering” 31st January, 1879. The report is reproduced here:

SANDRINGHAM WATER SUPPLY.

  SOME time ago the water supply to the residence of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, at Sandringham, was found to be in a very unsatisfactory condition both as regards quantity and quality, In consequence of this, Mr. Rawlinson, C.E., C.B., received instructions to investigate the matter, and to advise as to remedial measures. It was found necessary to extend those preliminary inquiries beyond the question of water to those of the house drainage arrangements and the disposal of the sewage. In these investigations Mr. Rawlinson availed himself of the services of Messrs. Lawaon and Mansergh, of Westminster, and under Mr. Rawlinson's supervision, and with his approval Mr. Mansergh has designed and superintended the whole of the works as acting engineer. Careful surveys of the whole district were first made, and trial borings for water were put down in several places. In the end it was determined to obtain the water supply from a chalk spring situated at a distance of about 1½ mile from Sandringham Hall, This spring is the principal feeder of a small stream running through Den Beck Wood, and which at that point forms the boundary line betwixt the estate of His Royal Highness and the Earl of Leicester. The spring is thrown out by the clay underlying the chalk at about 92 ft. above ordnance datum, or about 22 ft. below the ground floor of the hall. Between the spring and the hall a ridge of high ground intervenes, rising to 175 ft. above ordnance, or to about 5 ft. above the highest part of the roof.

  Although this is the most elevated point in the neighbourhood, still it is not sufficiently high to give adequate pressure for fire extinguishing purposes. A tower 60 ft. high has, therefore, been erected, upon which is placed a tank to be used as a service reservoir, and from this tank supply mains have been laid down to and around the hall. The yield of tho spring varies from about 15,000 to 150,000 gallons per 24 hours. The water is clear and sparkling, and has a total hardness of about 17 deg. on Clarke's scale, but is softened to about 6 deg. prior to being pumped into the tank. The relative positions of the spring, the pumping station, and the hall, are shown on the general plan (Fig. 4) in our two-page engraving. In order to preserve the water from contamination of any description and to prevent waste, the spring has been closed in a bricked chamber covered with a landing, and provided with an overflow and notch plate for measuring the quantity, and in the landing there is a locked manhole. From this chamber a line of 9-in. glazed stoneware pipes conveys the water to a small screening chamber at the pumping station. This line of pipes is 750 yards long, and has a fall of 1 in 800, and its water-lightness is insured by the use of Stanford's patent joints. In the screening chamber there is a fixed overflow by means of which any surplus water may be turned into the stream, or the whole diverted past the softening tanks into the underground reservoir.

  In ordinary working a certain quantity is delivered in the oval chamber in the first building seen to tho right in the general plan of tho pumping station, see Fig. 6. It is there converted into lime-water, the mixture with the lime being assisted by a pair of revolving agitators driven by a three-cylinder Ramsbottom hydraulic engine, worked by a small branch from the rising main. The cylinders are about 8 in. long and 1½ in. in diameter. The lime-water is then delivered into two softening tanks in the second building, each holding 3000 gallons, and this quantity is turned into them to to mixed with the lime-water. After allowing a proper time for the reaction and the settlement of the precipitate, the water is drawn off by means of self-acting syphons into the underground reservoir, which contains 18,000 gallons, and is then ready to be pumped into the tank on the tower.

  The pumping apparatus is shown in elevation, plan, and section at Figs. 1, 2, and 3 of our two-page engraving. It consists of a set of three-throw single-acting ram pumps driven by a horizontal condensing engine supplied with steam from a Cornish boiler. The boiler is 4 ft. in diameter and 12 ft. long, and has a 26 in. flue fitted with three Galloway tubes. Tho plates of the shell are of best Staffordshire iron ⅜ in. thick, with the edges planed. The end plates are ½ in. thick in one piece, the back end flanged, and the front turned true on edge and secured to the shell with external angle iron. Both end plates were bored for the flue. The longitudinal seams are double-riveted, and the flue is formed at the.front end with two flanged rings of Lowmoor iron and the back of best best Staffordshire ⅜ in. thick. All the rivets are of Lowmoor, and the manhole frame and dome are of wrought iron. The boiler has the usual fittings and a No. 4 Giffard's injector, with a valve to admit a supply.of water from the rising main. The cylinder of the engine is 9 in. in diameter, steam jacketed, and fitted with double covers, lubricators, etc., and is covered with felt under mahogany lagging; the stroke of the piston is 18 in. Variable expansion apparatus on Meyer’s principle has been adopted and is adjusted to cut off the steam at from one-tenth to three-tenths of the stroke. The crosshead connecting-rod; piston-rod, crank-pin, crankshaft, eccentric-rods, and valve spindles are all of steel. The flywheel is 7 ft. in diameter, weighs two tons, and is turned and polished. A governor of ordinary construction acts upon an equilibrium throttle-valve, and is set to a maximum speed of sixty revolutions per minute. A polished balanced disc crank is keyed on the crankshaft; and the eccentrics are of cast-iron with gun-metal, rings. The condensing apparatus is fixed behind the cylinder on the same bedplate, and the air-pump has gun-metal ram worked by the piston-rod.

  The pumps are placed in a room in the engine-house, and consist of a set of three brass rams 7 in. diameter and 19 in. stroke with brass valves and seatings. Upon the rising main is an air vessel fitted with glass gauge to indicate the quantity of air contained in it, the supply of which.is kept up by a small-air pump worked from the main primp shaft. The pump driving gear consists of a polished Lowmoor three-throw crankshaft carried in five pedestals with gun-metal steps supported upon a strong framing, part cast with the engine bedplate and part bolted to it. A spur mortise wheel 6 ft. in diameter is keyed on the pump shaft and driven by an iron pinion on the crankshaft. The pump connecting rods are of forged iron and the guide bars of steel firmly secured to the pumps and also to the framing which carries the shaft over them. At the ordinary working speed of ten strokes a minute the pumps will lift 75 gallons in that time. Betwixt the engine-house and the other building is a cooling pond for the condensing water.

  The rising main is 4 in. in diameter and 600 yards in length from the pumping station to the tank on the tower, and the net lift from the bottom of the underground reservoir, or pump well, is 175 ft. The rising main is made good to the bottom of the tank so that he pressure is always available for working the hydraulic engine at the agitators. The tank is of cast iron octagonal in plan, 24 ft. across and 12 ft. deep, and will hold 32,000 gallons. It stands upon jack arches supported by two main and six cross girders of cast iron fixed on the top of the tower. The bottom consists of 49 plates, the central plate being octagonal and carrying a l2 in. hollow pipe or column which serves partly to. support the roof and acts as a smoke flue for the cottage below. The remaining 48 plates of the bottom are cast from four patterns. The plates of the outside ring are turned up 12 in. to form the lowest course of the sides. Above this there are five courses or tiers of plates, breaking joint, and consisting of 120 plates cast from six patterns. The top tier has an internal flange 9 in. broad, supporting the outer ends of the roof bearers. All the plates, with the exception of the one in the centre of the bottom, are ¾ in. thick ; the edges are planed and the joints are formed by internal flanges caulked with rust cement.

  On each of the eight sides of the tank there are two internal vertical cast T stiffeners fitting accurately betwixt the bottom and the underside of the top flange, having lugs cast upon them for attachment to all the plate flanges. Upon these stiffeners are also formed bosses through which, the four sets of tie-rods pass from side to side of the tank. These tie-rods are secured in the following manner: On the inside the tank plate a boss is formed the depth of the joint flanges and supported by four radial brackets. This boss has a conical hole truly bored in it 2 in. in diameter outside and 1¼ in. inside. The end of the tie-rod is turned accurately to fit this hole. Just on the inside of the stiffener boss the tie bolt is threaded and a nut and washer are screwed home against the boss. The tie-rods are in two lengths, each half being passed through from the outside of the tank and then the two are secured and tightened up by means of right and left-hand couplings.

  The roof is of timber covered with lead, and is provided with lights, ventilators, and manholes. It is protected by a neat cast iron railing, and may be used as a look-out, affording as it does a magnificent view of the surrounding country. The roof and the two floors below the tank are accessible from the outside by means of a circular cast-iron staircase fixed in an octagonal turret. The two floors at the foot of tho tower are intended to be used as a dwelling house, and have an independent, entrance and staircase. The tower, of which we give a perspective view on the previous page, is built principally of brick, the angle quoins in the battered base being of red Mansfield stone filled in with the Carr rock of the district.

  The supply main from the tank to the hall is 6 in. in diameter, and 1870 yards in length. This main feeds two 4 in. branches, which encircle the house, and upon which are placed twelve hydrants. The stables, gardens, equerries’ lodge, and Sandringham Cottage, are supplied by means of 3 in. branches. The working of the hydrants has been tested in the presence of Captain Shaw to his entire satisfaction, and the residence of His Royal Highness may now be considered as well protected in case of fire, so far as an ample provision of water under pressure can protect it. The new supply is all that can be de-aired for general, sanitary, and domestic requirements.

  During construction the works were superintended for the engineers by Mr. Edmund Beck, Jun., and Mr. Samuel Groves acted as clerk of works on the tower. The pumping machinery and tank have been made and erected by Messrs. Pratchitt, of Carlisle. Messrs. Cochrane, Grove, and Co., of Middlesbrough, have supplied the iron pipes ; and Messrs Doulton the stoneware pipes. Altogether the works form a very interesting and satisfactory example of modem private water supply on a large scale, and they are highly creditable to all concerned in their design and execution.

“Engineering” 31st January, 1879.


Click here to display image collection        

The tower and the water supply system, served the Sandringham estate well, until they were connected to the mains and became redundant in 1973. The tower stood empty for three years before the Landmark Trust acquired a lease on the building and restored the decaying tower. The old outbuildings were demolished, to leave the Tower free-standing in its clearing in the woods. The tower then became available to hire for holidays, details may be found here - well worth a look, as it has some good photography, more history and details of the restoration too. The Appleton water tower is located at TF 70514 27803.


Ferrers

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Response to Ben Locker


Dear Ben

Thank you for taking the trouble to reply to my comments about recent developments with Jumbo.

Just to clear things up, I used this blog to speak for myself in my role with but not for BWTAS. Some of our members have bought and converted towers for themselves and most of them did it for romantic, creative reasons and I expect many would vow never again. Owning a water tower seems to be a short cut to madness and financial ruin.

I examined the evidence for Braithwaite's assertion it was a political decision (BBC Look East) along with all the Torys voting for and other parties against. I don't assert (nor actually agree) it was a political decision. The Gazette's live blog mentioned Bob Russell's interjection and that it was overruled. To think every one of them voted because being pro to his development is a Tory position and any objection is anti-Tory is absurd.

But I am saying the question of politics was brought into the debate by Braithwaite's assertion the decision was merely political combined with his permitting political banners on Jumbo - and to some extent Darius Laws identifying himself as a 'political activist'. I would draw the conclusion regardless of what party's banner hung there and certainly I don't assert Tories are evil. Some of my best friends are. IF it wasn't a political decison, Braithwaite didn't create it. IF it was, then look at what might have made it so.

I am not ascribing party political actions to your and Law's campaign, I was asking if you were or not. Appearances matching a certain stereotype indicated you were. I know you appreciate I want this debate to be friendly. If I went too far I was riffing on a theme.

You and Darius have since cleared up by twitter that your passion for Jumbo is independent of the owner. How did the banner get on Jumbo? Darius takes credit for that. Just for full disclosure; Brian Light is a member of BWTAS. George Braithwaite was offered honorary BWTAS membership. If I recall an invitation to join and to meet and discuss access to Jumbo was sent in 2006 to him without response.

You skirted the questions if whether the museum proposal was merely a sop to the objectors. A desperate or deeply Machiavellian move? Or genuine generous altruism? You tell me what you think.

I don't see how the BTT's past or recent finances have any relevance. They or anyone else obviously cannot raise anything until they have possession or agreement on a means to obtain it. I am not privy to any inside information but at the 2006 auction (which I covered as a reporter) they dropped out of the bidding when it got to six figures. When the auction was announced at very short notice, Brian Light (I think his charity was formed later) raised a very considerable amount of money. I recall one supporter turning up and pledging him another £50,000 on the day but it wasn't enough. If I recall the BTT arose out of deep frustration for a prior developer not doing anything with Jumbo but letting it decay, much the same motivation you have. The BTT didn't exist when Jumbo first came on the market but if it had then, it could have bought it with what it raised later. By now we could be asking how do we refresh a tired museum everyone's been to. I feel sorry for Colchester and people who have spent 27 years trying to put Jumbo to good use. Jumbo is unique and its potential benefit is not constrained to Colchester but a much wider area.

You and Laws keep asserting the delays as justification for action. I assert that's not a valid reason as the cause of the delay is the developer's choice not to entertain sensible feasible offers.

You could demolish Jumbo and get £500,000 for the reclaimed bricks, they are 90p each on eBay. Then millions for the land? It's the varying weather vane of its potential returns that causes the value of Jumbo to rise and fall. The wind that blows that weather vane is the political makeup of the planning committee, confidence of banks and developers and the quality of the development proposals before it. Without planning permission its value as a security was rated at zero.

If you bought shares in a fast rising company expecting them to rise further but they in fact fell in value and then someone offered to take them off your hands for a rock bottom price, planning to salvage it as a downscaled but viable company with some further investment; you say that's unacceptable and deeply unfair. If you bet the wrong way on the market, are you entitled to a refund? Are you a capitalist or not? What options does BTT have? I would love know of some mechanism which would conjure up the £330,000 the owner needs to walk away without saddling the operator with unserviceable debt but we've missed the window for packaging up some mortgage backed securities.

You pick over the plans BTT proposed a long time ago when the nanosecond of opportunity to buy Jumbo was before them. I myself would present some different plans for Jumbo and I can see - from examples all around the world - there are many ways to exploit a property like Jumbo and yet be a good neighbour and maintain its heritage and cultural value, which I consider is utterly dependent on it remaining more intact than Braithwaite's current plan. But to offer them for discussion now would be commercially unwise. Would you publish your 'restaurant in the sky' recipes and wine list before you've hired your chef? Would show your client's competitor your pitch?

You sincerely don’t believe it’s possible to rescue Jumbo intact - I sincerely believe it is as I've seen it done. Somewhere there is common ground. Let's keep everyone working towards it.

I think it will be wearisome for our members if we continue to ping-pong point and counterpoint via our respective blogs but I am happy to respond to further developments as this story becomes part of the rich culture and history of water towers. 

I look forward to hearing if the council will promote an alternative approach. The BTT have invited round-table discussions. Let's hope some movement happens and when it does, we can be on hand to present our analysis. Our differences of opinion serves people to make up their own minds.

Nat Bocking

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Jumbo's conversion plans rejected and that's good for Colchester



George Braithwaite speaking to BBC Look East
The Colchester Gazette live-blog of the Colchester Borough Council planning meeting reports the proposal by the owner of Colchester's iconic 'Jumbo' water tower to convert it into flats and offices was rejected after a passionate debate. The BBC website also carried the story with quotes from both sides. The owner George Braithwaite and other commentators said afterwards the decision was a political one.


While BWTAS itself takes no position for or against water tower conversion per se, it exists to ensure the discussion of such proposals are fully informed about the heritage and cultural value of water towers, therefore I am exerting my privilege to comment on the latest developments in Jumbo's long and complex history.

The vote went along political lines with the three Conservative councillors on the planning committee all voting in support of the plan and the seven Lib-Dem, Independent and Labour councillors against. According to the Gazette, Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell contacted the council's chief executive Adrian Pritchard suggesting the Conservative councillors should have declared an interest because of a donation made by George Braithwaite to the North Essex Conservative Association. BWTAS noticed a 'Vote Conservative' banner was hung from Jumbo in 2010. 

That is a useful example of the enormous value of water towers for their owners and their potential to impact their surroundings. If politics played any part in the decision, then perhaps Braitwaite only brought that on himself.  

I have found two videos produced by a local 'political activist' Darius Laws and his associate Ben Locker. According to the Gazette, Darius is a Conservative and Ben says he is one too, though one can tell from his wearing of red trousers

Darius said if Braithwaite’s plans are opposed it would lead to “decades more neglect and decay and a lost opportunity to provide economic growth and enhancement for our town centre.” 

In their YouTube video posted on Oct 27, 2013 (though the date of production is not known) Darius and Ben took to the streets of Colchester to drum up support for Braithwaite's plans saying it would bring "a restaurant in the sky" and also a museum while the flats and offices are the necessary commercial exploitation of Jumbo in order to preserve it. 

Though I am not a heritage expert, as the author of a successful guide to water towers and the editor of this blog and as I have corresponded with hundreds of water tower enthusiasts, owners and developers over the years, I have the evidence that water towers have enormous power as attractions and there is great national and international interest in their heritage value.

The argument Ben and Darius posited on the streets has logic similar to US policy in the Vietnam War: "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it" said an unattributed US commander after bombing and shelling the town of Bến Tre into oblivion to rout the Vietcong.

It's very doubtful whether Colchester needs another restaurant near to Jumbo and whether the benefit is worth vandalism of a Grade II* listed structure. Restaurants are extremely risky financially and there are no guarantees that a museum or the restaurant would be viable enough to create a net growth in jobs. If a restaurant at the top of Jumbo was hugely successful, that itself might cause another local restaurant to close because of the mechanism of competitive capitalism that Conservative dogma expounds as beneficial.

Local residents who have replied to the proposals on the planning website object to the additional traffic, noise and light pollution this kind of conversion would cause. The planning policy for Colchester said Jumbo was in an area reserved for cultural facilities long before Braithwaite plunked down £330,000 to buy it.

This policy is described as ‘a key tool’ in the determination of planning applications.'Save Jumbo' campaigner Brian Light of the Balkerne Tower Trust pointed out at the planning meeting; "flats and offices are not cultural facilities and would transform the present cultural oasis into a busy and noisy commercial area. At night, four huge glowing panels would be seen, unconnected to each other or to the shape of the original building."






Ben has claimed on his blog there is "no other funded, viable plan on the table."

Ahem, nothing of Braithwaite's proposals were in the public domain until 24 hours before the planning meeting. Were Ben and Darius were privy to them, though they claim to be working entirely independently of Braithwaite? Long before Braithwaite bought Jumbo there were other proposals and studies done. The most developed proposal came from the Balkerne Tower Trust who were an unsuccessful bidder when Jumbo was sold at a snap auction in February 2006. It is not the fault of the council or anybody else but Jumbo's succession of owners that Jumbo has been neglected while they played pass the parcel with a very speculative investment.


It is perhaps the fault of government policy (incidentally a Conservative one then) that ratepayers' assets can be sold on the open market to people with no plans to use them except the hope they can find some way to make a profit. 

None of Jumbo's owners have been prepared to entertain offers to put Jumbo to a use that would protect and preserve it for generations to come while their Jumbo property bubble grew. Darius and Ben's assertion that Jumbo has lain unused is untrue. It was utilised as a 'prayer tower' by an evangelical church from 1988 to 1995 who purchased it from Anglian Water. They then sold it at a loss to a property developer. Perhaps a portent of the danger ahead.

Several members of BWTAS recognised Braithwaite’s last minute museum proposal as an empty promise with no guarantees that it could be delivered if the plans were approved. It distinctly smells of the oft-used ruse of public use to satisfy objectors which could be rescinded for any number of reasons later on. Were it a serious proposal, the last six years should have been spent developing a consortium of heritage partners to put together a solid proposal to the planning committee rather than offering up a few figures plucked from the air by the architect.

It's impossible to say if any cultural or heritage bodies would support the Balkerne Tower Trust in taking on Jumbo because no one has ever been offered possession of Jumbo on anything like viable and reasonable terms. In his three minutes at the microphone at the planning meeting Brian Light pointed out the idiocy of the trust being invited to set up the museum and have their volunteers to staff it and pay over £3000 pounds a month rent for the mere three months it would be open a year. "Meanwhile the applicant will collect the admission charges and £500 a time for frequent ‘corporate events’. As a charity we don’t wish – and could not – subsidise a privately owned museum over which we have no control, and which could close at any time" he said.

Councillor Nick Barlow who opposed the plan has also stated on his twitter feed that this "public access (was) an afterthought and not guaranteed permanently."

Andrew Erskine, a cultural and creative economy consultant to the public and private sector also said on his twitter feed; "Personally feel this should be a public asset first. Not suitable to turn into flats etc."

The business plan, like any, is full of suppositions. It imagines an observatory and display above an office block and flats can draw the same visitor numbers as the Colchester Natural History museum year on year. It should be noted that the museum is free to enter while the proposed average entry for Jumbo is £3, so it would be higher for some and less for others. I would think £30,000 for exhibits is woefully insufficient and there is no mention of the costs of the observatory. Brian Light noted that Braithwaite's agent claimed "there is no public interest in the history, only in the views". That history is what the Balkerne Tower Trust and BWTAS exist to celebrate.

Braithwaite’s conversion plan offers nothing innovative or creative that exploits the assets of Jumbo to make it a truly outstanding and UNIQUE attraction. His plans would just make Jumbo just another converted water tower. His business plan should consider the number of visitors to the Atlas Works or the Foredown tower in Sussex for a better comparison. I don't think even I would pay £5 to go into Jumbo more than once just to gawp at the rooftops of Colchester and see some old photographs and visit yet another overpriced museum gift shop and sandwich bar. Would having a look through a telescope be yet another £1 for 3 minutes? I can imagine the annoyance of parents at such Barnum antics. Were it not the need for Braithwaite to salvage his reckless investment, there would no need to set the bar so high.

Darius (and Ben presumably) said Jumbo could be Colchester's Eiffel Tower but the economic benefits offered is Colchester gets its own Canary Wharf without any public money required. Does Colchester really need that? If I recall the developer of Canary Wharf went bust spectacularly. It then got bailed out by billions in public investment for the transport infrastructure it lacked.

I sincerely wish that the Eiffel Tower concept proves to be the case but that can only happen if Jumbo is kept intact and visitors encounter knowledgeable guides along with displays inside the tank that bring the history of civil engineering and water supply to life, with the added attraction of viewing Colchester from a spectacular viewpoint. 

With income from the occasional charity fundraising abseil or corporate event, a heritage operator would could cover the cost of maintenance. As an office building with an observatory it will be an awful compromise and a much duller attraction. The need to recoup the exponentially higher costs of redevelopment will put pressure on the owner to maximise their revenue, so slowly squeezing out the 'heritage' uses. Braithwaite's cobbled together museum is set to fail and some might speculate that it is deliberate.

While the restoration of Jumbo would initially be expensive because of the years of neglect it is not completely a lost cause to find funding for that, perhaps meeting a corporate social responsibility remit, and once Jumbo is brought back to health, ongoing maintenance could be within the means of a charitable trust offering tours of the intact tower. Without planning permission the value of Jumbo was assessed at £0.00 so a heritage operator could never secure a mortgage for £330,000 to buy out Braithwaite AND cover the cost of restoration against the value of Jumbo.

The uses that the Balkerne trust have proposed for Jumbo make it a very good neighbour for local residents, businesses and nearby cultural attractions and they will improve foot-fall and 'dwell' time of visitors to Colchester's cultural and heritage quarter whereas Mr Braithwaite's plans bring conflict and nuisance with increased noise, traffic, light pollution and commercial competition for nearby cafes, of which there are plenty enough. The difference in the carbon impact of wholly heritage use and Mr Braithwaite’s are significant as well especially in the conversion stage.

It is to the credit of Colchester's planning committee that they refused to acquiesce to a developer whose supporters cite the deliberate dilapidation as a just cause to allow further vandalism of Jumbo. Had they gone on the web, any developer who wanted to take on Jumbo would know full well it was a complex and difficult proposition offering very few options for adaptive reuse EXCEPT for the long standing ambition of the Balkerne Tower Trust. Interviewed shortly after his purchase, Braithwaite said he did not know anything about Jumbo or its history - he just liked it. Colchester should not be held hostage to a developer's folly. 

Nat Bocking
Gen. Sec. BWTAS


p.s. I would be happy to link to or post a response or make corrections required.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Yew Tree Hill, Droitwich, Worcestershire (1962)

© Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

This post is in response to a query left on the About BWTAS posting, back in May 2011. Back then, all I knew about this tower was that it was a square reinforced concrete tower and it's location: SO 90306 61602. We now know that this 150,000 gallon water tower was constructed in 1962, at a cost of £35,000, for the East Worcestershire Waterworks Co. The tower is 110 feet high and comprises a square tank supported by 12 slender square sectioned columns, of 81 feet, around the perimeter and a square service shaft that passes up through the tank, forming a penthouse to give access to the top of the tank. Construction was by Messrs. Currall, Lewis & Martin Ltd., but we don't know who designed this stunning water tower. If you have any further details, please leave a comment.

The photograph of the construction of this tower is published with the kind permission of The Concrete Society.

Ferrers

Jumbo plans recommended for approval by council officers


By Caroline Tilley

CONTROVERSIAL plans to transform Colchester’s water tower should be given the thumbs up, according to planning officers.

Colchester Council officers have said the proposals for Jumbo should be approved despite fierce opposition.

They say the plans would revamp Jumbo, bring in shoppers and give the building a viable use.

But the final decision will be down to the council’s planning committee when it meets next Thursday.

Owner George Braithwaite wants to create three apartments, a restaurant and a museum and observatory with a cafe in the Grade II listed building.

English Heritage has opposed the plans, as have a number of others, saying it would “radically change” the water tower.

Colchester Council’s planning committee at will meet at 6pm on Thursday, October 31, at Colchester Town Hall.

Response by Nat Bocking, General Secretary of BWTAS.

Amongst BWTAS members there is likely to be found a wide variety of opinion on the merits of redevelopment of water towers, therefore BWTAS does not endorse nor either protest at these proposals. 

However, it is plain in this report that only one aspect of this plan is by any means 'concrete', in that the developer will convert Jumbo into three apartments. The occupancy and usage of any remaining space is not assured. There is no guarantee any allocated space will be suitable or the rent required will be affordable for a restaurant (which are notoriously unstable tenants) or a museum and observatory  (which are even less financially viable) to occupy the water tower.

While we do not in any way suggest that it would happen here, there have been numerous cases of redevelopment by stealth. Appeasement of planners by providing a community space in a development has been wriggled out of by imposing restrictive conditions until the users rights are eventually relinquished.

Were this application from a consortium of partners made of the developer and heritage bodies, more people in BWTAS could be enthusiastic rather than pessimistic.

To our knowledge there have been no proposals from any heritage groups to create a museum inside Jumbo except one which wants to keep Jumbo intact, as the intact and restored Jumbo itself would be their most prized exhibit. This group's business plan is long standing and judged viable, were it not for the burden of the asking price of a series of owners trying to recover their reckless speculative investment. The first one picked up the redundant property for £100,000 and apparently sold it on at a loss for £86,000 but Jumbo has been a growing investment bubble ever since.

Jumbo is without question the finest example of its type and it represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to preserve an example from a golden age of civil engineering. Kept intact Jumbo can be a resource for a great number of useful purposes which accord with its neighbours and community stakeholders at a serviceable cost. Its usefulness and accordance with every aspect of its surroundings would be greatly diminished by an unsympathetic and excessive conversion.

The business model of a developer is of no concern to a planner except when development grants are concerned but on a project of this scale it cannot be ignored. This latest proposal for conversion has no guarantees that Jumbo will be put into sustainable use and so benefit Colchester. Allowing conversion to that extent closes the door forever on another use originally proposed which could sustain Jumbo intact. If that plan failed, it would still allow many alternatives to be considered.