Conservation area for “historically important” Heybridge cottages proposed

  Posted: 13.09.21 at 13:05 by Charlotte Lillywhite

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A proposal has been put forward by Maldon District Council to designate Woodfield Cottages, in Heybridge, a conservation area.

The site covers 116-156 Woodfield Cottages - three terraces of 41 single-storey cottages - which were developed by the industrialist E H Bentall in 1873 as homes for the staff of the Bentall Agricultural Works.

However, although they were categorised as Grade II listed buildings in 1971, district council planning officers said they are “among the most challenging listed buildings in the Maldon district due to their relatively high degree of modernisation”.

In the officers’ report on the proposal, they said this process “began before the buildings were listed and continued following listing, in many cases without obtaining the necessary listed building consents”.

The cottages are also of national architectural interest due to their pioneering use of mass-concrete construction, but officers said this interest has been “eroded” by many of the later alterations to the homes.

Officers said that a Woodfield Cottages Conservation Area would “ensure that the local planning authority and local residents make considered decisions which preserve and enhance the special character of the benefit of present and future generations”.

They added: “While many of the cottages have been altered there are clear opportunities to improve the area’s character and appearance and better reveal the site’s significance.”

By designating the site a conservation area, the council may also 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.

Officers have also proposed introducing a local listed building consent order to the site, which would grant automatic consent for selected types of alteration.

Officers said: “The proposed order would make it easier for owners of Woodfield Cottages to carry out sympathetic and restorative alterations and to address enforcement issues, by reducing the bureaucratic requirements associated with obtaining listed building consent.”

If successful, the order would be the first example of its kind in East Anglia.

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

The district council’s strategy and resources committee will consider the report on Thursday 16 September, and vote on whether to hold a public consultation on the proposals.

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