Conservation area bid to give Heybridge cottages ‘brighter prospects’ to be decided next month

  Posted: 23.12.21 at 18:06 by Charlotte Lillywhite

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A bid to designate a group of historic concrete cottages in Heybridge as a conservation area will be voted on by councillors next month.

The conservation area would cover 116-156 Woodfield Cottages, which form three terraces of 41 single-storey cottages, and was proposed by officers at Maldon District Council in September.

Council officers have also recommended creating a local listed building order which would grant automatic consent for selected “enhancement opportunities” on the homes, which were built in 1873.

Paul Dodson, director of strategy, performance and governance at the council, said in a report that the plans would allow “positive enhancement works” to be carried out on the homes.

He said: “2023 will be the 150th anniversary since Woodfield Cottages were built.

“With the proposed positive and proactive measures in place it is hoped that this anniversary could be celebrated with these important historic buildings facing brighter prospects.”

The cottages are of national architectural interest due to their pioneering use of mass-concrete construction.

They were developed by the industrialist E H Bentall in 1873 as homes for staff of the Bentall Agricultural Works.

Although they were categorised as Grade II listed buildings in 1971, Mr Dodson said they are “among the most challenging listed buildings in the Maldon district due to their relatively high degree of modernisation”.

He said this process “began before the buildings were listed and continued following listing, in many cases without obtaining the necessary listed building consents”.

He continued: “Many of the later alterations – such as replacement windows, doors and porches – have eroded the architectural interest of the listed buildings and their character as a unified group of buildings.

“Some of the buildings are in a poor condition and one cottage - no. 127 - has fallen into a particularly dilapidated state.”

The listed building consent order would grant automatic consent for selected types of alteration, and would be the first example of its kind in East Anglia.

By also designating the site a conservation area, the council may be able to enter into a conservation area partnership agreement with Historic England, which would make it eligible for grant funding to enhance the area.

This would be the first conservation area partnership scheme in the Maldon district for over fifteen years, and the first in Essex for seven years.

Public consultation on the plans began on 30 September, and all 10 responses to the conservation area designation supported the proposal.

Some respondents suggested installing traditional lampposts and electricity cables underground, which officers added to the council’s list of enhancement opportunities for the site.

The Victorian Society was the only respondent to not fully support the listed building order, saying that “for it to work effectively, it may require a high level of vigilance on the part of the local planning authority to ensure unapproved works are not taking place without consent”.

Mr Dodson said: “Care has been taken in drafting the order only to include works which would be sympathetic for all of the cottages, and the order has been drafted in a way that is clear, detailed and specific.”

Historic England, who considered de-listing the cottages in 2019, has given its support to both initiatives.

The council’s strategy and resources committee will make a decision on the plans, which have been recommended for approval by officers, at its next meeting on 6 January.

If approved, all residents, owners and interested parties will be notified of the changes.

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