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Wednesday 13 April 2011

War over Warrington

Lifted from several stories in the Warrington Guardian with apologies:

The future of the historic 1906 Garnett’s Water Tower is likely to be decided tomorrow, Thursday, 14th April 2011.

Developers PTS Property have submitted a plan to Warrington Borough Council to demolish the  attractive Italianate crenellated tower and surrounding buildings and replace it with a temporary car park.

But objectors say the building is crucial to the heritage of the town centre.

Councillors will discuss the plans at a meeting of the development control committee in the Town Hall on Thursday. The meeting starts at 6.30pm

Preservation campaigners will learn then if their last-ditch bid to stop the demolition of the town centre landmark is successful.

Garnett’s Cabinet Works is between Cairo Street and Barbauld Street. Inscriptions on the tower say the company was founded in 1824 but the tower and factory was built in 1906.  According to Geograph: the factory's founder Robert Garnett was born in 1830 in Penketh, Warrington. He was a generous local benefactor to many churches and charities and even laid the foundation stone at Penketh methodist church.

The water tower connected to the building would be pulled down as part of plans for the derelict site. The developers say that redevelopment would not be economically viable due to the poor conditions of the building and others on the site and it is a hazardous in its present condition.

Now English Heritage has put its weight behind campaigners fighting to save it. It has called for the withdrawal of the plan for the tower, which is listed locally under the Bridge Street Conservation area.

Anna Boxer, historic buildings inspector for English Heritage, told Warrington Borough Council in its submission: “Once a heritage asset is lost it cannot be replaced and the loss has a cultural, environmental, economic and social impact. “Any loss within the conservation area should have a clear and convincing justification.”

The letter goes on to observe there is no indication of what is planned for the redevelopment of the site long-term. Mrs Boxer added: “The applicant is correct in saying that replacement of a demolished building with a similar one should not make part of the justification.

“An empty site is however not an enhancement of the conservation area, and especially not when the proposal is the loss of a principal building which would be categorised as substantial harm that potentially threatens the very basis of the designation.”

One of the residents hoping to halt the plans to demolish the water tower is Lymm resident Susan Gabathuler, aged 74. She said: “I’m very upset to think they might be doing that. It’s the history of Warrington and it needs to be preserved. They have a duty to keep these places open if it’s in a conservation area.”

John Rowlinson, managing director of PTS Property, said: “Victoria Works are constantly being broken into, despite efforts by ourselves and the police. Due to safety reasons, the poor state of the building and the fact the refurbishment is not economically viable and after consultation with the police, fire service, town wardens and the planning department, we feel we have no other option but to demolish the building... Hopefully, in time, it will help spark a regeneration of this area.”

Other residents have spoken out against the plans that will also see the council offices and the Cairo Street Sunday School room, based by Cairo Street, being demolished too.

Gill Hoff, of Bridgewater Avenue, Latchford, is one of those who is opposing the plans. The 31-year-old said: “They are very important historically and Garnett’s Water Tower is a very important part of the skyline. “This is the cultural quarter, this is supposed to be a very beautiful historic place.”

The owners of the site had taken on the Victoria Works and building in 2005 and added the Cairo Street Sunday School and council offices to its stable in 2007.

After gaining planning permission for the redevelopment of the site into retail, leisure and office space since 2006 the developers PTS have been unable to find any companies interested in taking on the property.

And since taking over they have spent in excess of £50,000 on maintenance and security for the sites, which have been plagued by a lead thief, drug addicts using it as a den and a free running group called Wolf Pack using the site.

Has anyone pointed out that's just what the area needs; a materials recycling scheme, a drug treatment centre and a gymnasium could be the key to area regeneration? 
And any reader of this site will see that other developers have tried to preserve water towers on their site because there's no better landmark or billboard for a place than its water tower. Ed.

images: Warrington Guardian, Geograph


Andy T said...

Tower saved. English Heritage onside and locals.

Anonymous said...

Are you aware that this is threatened again?