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Saturday 19 December 2009

Whose Horton's hearings?

The fate of an abandoned circa 1912-24 water tower at the former Horton Asylum in Epsom remains in doubt after a meeting of the local council's planning committee on 6th December 2009. The committee voted to recommend rejection of the London and Quadrant Housing Trust's proposal to redevelop the tower as the lift shaft for a new-build thirteen story block of flats.

download the plans

The housing trust's proposal also provided four two-bedroom apartments next to the existing tower, which would be repaired and refurbished.

According to the application: The water tower is constructed of yellow gault brick. It measures a maximum of 7.3m by 9.9m in plan and is 39m high.

The proposal is to insert floors into the main and largest shaft in the building and in a former flue shaft, to add a stair/lift core to one side of the tower and erect a four storey extension in order to provide four two-bed maisonettes.

The two lowest maisonettes would have two storeys each on the lower four floors and the two above would occupy four storeys each of the remaining eight storeys.

The existing spiral stair, which is to be blocked off between dwellings, would provide the internal link between the various floors of a dwelling. The new staircase is to be the fire escape and also leads to the dwelling entrances. The lift would be a ‘fire fighting’ type.

The applicants state the proposed lift and staircase is required because of the need for access and escape in the case of a fire.

The four storey extension at the base of the tower is shown with a flat roof a maximum of 11.8m high.

Externally, the existing tower windows are adjusted and enlarged and additional windows are provided to each new residential floor. The rotten pitched roof it removed to form a roof terrace and a small flat roofed conservatory directly accessed from the existing spiral staircase. The existing brick work will be cleared and the tower will receive a rendered plinth for two storeys to disguise previous workshop abatements.

The new lift and stair shaft would have a steel structure clad in a self coloured rendered finish.

Six parking spaces would be provided with vehicular access from a road in the adjoining open market housing under construction.

Top image lifted from Jason Rogers Flickr page.

The reasons given for refusal are the effect on adjacent dwellings and the effect on the appearance of the existing tower. Horton water tower is not listed but it is supposed to be retained because of its character and townscape importance.

The actual decision to refuse or to permit will be taken in public by the councillors on the Planning Committee later.

But the councils actions have angered local residents who are urging the council either to demolish or preserve the water tower, if the application is turned down by the Planning Committee.

According to the Epsom Guardian: Kate Battrick (a prominent stylist) who lives behind the tower, said: “They have to either demolish it or put on a proper preservation order and take responsibility for it. They can’t leave it like this. While we welcome the findings in the report, it does not address that Epsom Council has failed the residents in Livingstone Park, showing a lack of care and responsibility.”

More info on Horton Asylum can be found on websites detailing the history of the cluster of asylums in Epsom and Ewell: History of the Epsom Hospitals and history of County Asylums.

According to the Liberal Democrat held council website:

When Horton Chapel and Horton Water Tower were saved from demolition during the building of the Livingstone Park estate in Epsom, local residents were consulted about its future. That first meeting was held five years ago!

For a variety of reasons, there has been little progress since then and most recently regeneration of both buildings appears to have succumbed to the economic downturn.

Meanwhile the nearby Grade II listed St. Ebbas water tower (left) with its integral chimney is being converted to become a power station for a similar asylum redevelopment where its planning persmission requires 20% of the site's energy to be from renewable sources. In this instance that could be from a woodchip burner.

You can follow this all too familiar sounding planning saga from here: Public Meeting on Horton Chapel and Water Tower

BWTAS would be grateful for updates from anyone informed on the situation.

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