[updated] Valentine Place historical townscape under threat

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January 22, 2015 by Juha Repo

Edited in January 2015 to direct readers to our later article on this. The planning application was approved by Southwark Council in July 2014, but the buildings have not yet been lost, and another consultation is currently open.

 

One of the new developments in progress in the Blackfriars Road area is for the Valentine Place townscape. The area was designated a conservation area by Southwark Council in March 2012 after local campaigning. By then a Victorian warehouse had already been lost at number 1, Valentine Place.

The Valentine Place conservation area is almost opposite the site of our first project, the Linden Homes developments. Only The Crown public house faces Blackfriars Road though of this conservation area.

The plans submitted to Southwark Council in December only preserve a facade of one of the buildings in this unique area, while the townscape feel of it would be lost. The conservation area status still does not prevent demolition, but permission must now be sought before the exterior or the interior of the buildings can be changed.

Although Southwark Council was initially praised for creating the conservation are, the risk of us losing all but one facade of it is very clear after the developers have submitted their plans that do not respect the historical townscape. 

A local resident since 1990, Barbara Grehs, has studied the townscape extensively, and she has kindly provided us material for this article. A full 111 page work on the townscape can be downloaded via this link

We have no information when the planning application will come to be decided by the Southwark Council Planning committee, but until then all residents can still send their objections and comments to the planning officer. Find the details at the bottom of this page.

Background

The Valentine Place Conservation Area is situated in Cathedrals ward in the north-western corner of the London Borough of Southwark. The area is a historic cohesive townscape lying between Blackfriars Road to the east, Boundary Row to the north, Webber Street to the west and Valentine Row to the south.

The conservation area comprises the following buildings: Nos. 1-8 Boundary Row; No. 2 Pontypool Place; No. 12 Valentine Place; Nos. 2-10 Valentine Place; a gap site formerly No. 1 Valentine Place, a Victorian warehouse demolished in 2010); Nos. 3-5 Valentine Place; Nos. 17/19 (odd) Valentine Place / No. 21 Webber Street; Nos. 27- 31 Webber Street, and No. 108 Blackfriars Road.

No. 21 Webber Street was constructed in 1907 for Maltina Bakeries. For more than a century this Edwardian building of stock brick, faience materials and neo-classical elements has made a major architectural and industrial contribution to the Valentine Place townscape, with its own unique story to tell.

Prior to the building’s construction in 1907, the Blackfriars Flour Mill had been established in the centre of the Valentine Place townscape as early as the 1880s. This, along with the founding of the British National Bakery School at the nearby London South Bank University in 1884, marked the beginning of a long tradition of baking in the area which was to last until the 1960s. During this time, all of the buildings in the townscape (with the exception of the southside of Boundary Row) survived the intense bombing offensive of Waterloo during the Second World War.

In 1965, No. 21 Webber Street became home to Letraset Ltd, a company which achieved worldwide recognition for its invention of highly innovative products for commercial designers. The printing industry had actually been an integral part of the townscape dating back to at least the early 1870s: there was a large printing works at Boundary Row (Ordnance Survey, 1872), which was still in existence 40 years later (Ordnance Survey, 1914); Letraset occupied No. 21 Webber Street from 1965 to 1980; and the long-established Silverprint company made No. 12 Valentine Place its home from the late 1980s to 2012.

The architectural qualities of No. 21 Webber Street have been acknowledged by leading experts; moreover, its positioning at the junction of Webber Street and Valentine Place provides definition and shaping to the Valentine Place townscape as well as a focal point for northern views into the conservation area (Southwark Council, 2012).

Current plans

The following pictures of the proposed development are in the public domain on the Southwark Council planning website (design and access statements)

The current planning application is for

Demolition of 1, 3-5 Valentine Place and 27-31 Webber Street and part demolition of 7-19 Valentine Place and 21 Webber Street (facades retained). Redevelopment of the site to provide 61 residential units (max 7 storeys), 3854sqm Class B1 (business) and 138sqm A1/A3 (retail and food and drink) floorspace, together with landscaping and car parking

Some objections to the current proposals on the site, based on the information on the planning application 13/AP/3791

1. Planning application does not comply with national policies and appraisals on heritage and conservation areas

Reason: It proposes total demolition of unlisted heritage asset 3-5 Valentine Place, and demolition of all but the façade of The Maltina Bakery building. These buildings represent fifty per cent of the buildings in the Valentine Place Conservation Area, yet despite the documented contribution (ref. Valentine Place Conservation Area Appraisal Adopted September 2012) that they make in the form of local character, industrial history, period architecture and their extensive potential for reuse, no options have been presented for retention, repair and refurbishment of the Maltina Bakery building as a whole, nor for retention and repair of the Victorian façade of 3-5 Valentine Place.

2. Proposed demolition not in line with expert opinion on the buildings’ merits and local support for its retention

Reason: There are high levels of support and positive comment (all of which are on file at Southwark Council’s planning and conservation department) for the Valentine Place townscape and in particular the Maltina Bakery building, from the following: Andrew Saint, Professor of Architecture and General Editor, Survey of London; English Heritage; Chris Costelloe, Conservation Adviser, The Victorian Society; David Noakes, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Cathedrals Ward; Gary Rice, Head of Development Management, Southwark Council; Tracey Chapman, Senior Design and Conservation Officer, Southwark Council; Juliet Mitchell, Southwark resident and Professor at the Courtauld Institute of Fine Art, UCL and Cambridge University; Stephen Humphrey, Past President of the Southwark and Lambeth Archaeological Society, President of the Rotherhithe and Bermondsey Local History Society, Honorary Freeman of the London Borough of Southwark; and a number of local residents and business owners – the planning applicants’ own public study showed 22 out of 23 people questioned believed it important to retain the key heritage element of the existing site.

3. Planning application fails to make case for demolition of all but the facade of the Maltina Bakery building

Reasons:

Engineering survey commissioned by the planning applicants did not in any way conclude that the condition of the building would make demolition the only option.

English Heritage has said the building “makes a prominent and valuable contribution to the conservation area in which it stands” and Southwark Council has identified it as a “building of merit” in its Blackfriars Road Draft Supplementary Planning Document June 2013.

The bakery is noted as a “building of merit” in Southwark Council’s Blackfriars Road Draft SPD June 2013.

Demolition of its main fabric would destroy a completely cohesive heritage structure and have a major impact on the setting of the conservation area; key features that would be lost are the building’s distinctive chimney stack and a roof extension that housed the bakery’s canteen; and internally, a beautiful original vaulted timber roof and original stone staircase with balustrade.

The building is clearly still fit for purpose, with 12 people currently being allowed to work in it.

4. Planning application fails to make the case for demolition of Victorian façade of 3-5 Valentine Place

Reasons:
The building’s architecture is acknowledged in the Valentine Place Conservation Area Appraisal (Adopted September 2012) as being comparable with the other townscape buildings, especially its brick detailing, segmental arches, timber windows, wide doors, 60º pitched glazed roof, and brick and concrete coping parapet.

Complete demolition would be in conflict with Section 3.16 of the Southwark Plan regarding the demolition of heritage assets.

The planning applicants’ failure to present any research into the building’s contribution to the townscape’s 20th century industrial history as home to a leading manufacturer in bar fittings and pumps for the licensed trade, conflicts with National Planning Policy Framework Section 12, which as a minimum requires applicants to show they have consulted historical records regarding heritage assets.

5. Proposed building heights will impact negatively on the setting of the conservation area and cause loss of daylight to residential properties

Reasons:

Despite the Valentine Place Conservation Area Appraisal (Adopted September 2012) setting the heights at 2-4 storeys maximum, the planning application proposes heights of seven storeys at 1a Valentine Place and five storeys at 3-5 Valentine Place, and proposes building up the Maltina Bakery building from two to four storeys. This would have the following negative consequences: mass alteration of the roof form and overall shape of the townscape; removal of key elevated views into the townscape and of outstanding restored buildings such as 2-10 Valentine Place; complete removal of sunlight on the magnificent façade of 2-10 Valentine Place; destruction of a valuable heritage chimney stack; loss of daylight at two properties in Quentin House and to the first floor habitable rooms at Bridgehouse Court; creation of a wind tunnel effect and major loss of light down Valentine Place; by the applicants’ own admission, harm to the intimate character and human scale of the conservation area.

Moreover, the planning application did not include a to-scale drawing of the current site and the proposed site, despite it normally being a requirement for applicants to present such visuals; without them it is impossible for consultees to visualise or grasp the impact of these heights.

21 of the 23 respondents from the original consultation carried out by the applicants’ architects in February 2013 said it was important to respect the scale and context of the locality.

6. Affordable housing provision below required policy levels

The proposed affordable housing ratio is 21% affordable housing, versus the 35% set in Strategic Policy 6 of the Core Strategy ratio. The shortfall is justified by the applicants in a private Financial Viability Assessment submitted to Southwark Council, to which consultees have not been given access and on which they are thus not able to comment.

So this is what has been happening so far in Valentine Place in brief. There is still time to make your opinion known and it can be possible to save this unique townscape even if our heritage is disappearing faster than anyone could have imagined.

How can I comment on the plans?

You can email planning.consultation@southwark.gov.uk or write to Planning Applications, Southwark Council, PO Box 64529, London SE1P 5LX Quote Ref 13/AP/3791 [South Square Ltd & Gemaco Int SA]. You will need to give your postal address. Your comments will be made public. You should say if you do not wish your address to be published. If you are sending by email, you should include your comments in an attachment if you do not want your address published

Link to the planning application and the documents here

Even if the Southwark Website says the consultation is not open at the moment, in practice the planning officers will accept objections and comments until the actual day of the Planning Committee meeting.

For ideas on how to prepare effective objections, please read our article from last year in connection of the Linden Homes proposals. The principles in making a succesfull objection apply to all planning applications.

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7 thoughts on “[updated] Valentine Place historical townscape under threat

  1. Thanks for that, corrected! But why is the Southwark planning website only giving the planning.applications email address, not the correct one?

  2. Chris says:

    I think the new development would look fantastic if they keep the Old mill and facade in the designs. Surely any intelligent architect can see that. There have been some fantastic buildings where the old and new have merged -Not enough i am sure but there have been some. We need to all remember that the only thing we can rely on in life is change – And it doesn’t always have to be bad. The area has been left to rot and is just dull and dingy. we just hav ego make sure we have a say in the aesthetics of these things. And not let the fat cats demolish and build.

  3. […] in the same meeting the fate of the Valentine Place townscape will be decided. Here the proposal would keep only the facade of the old bakery building in this […]

  4. […] development, and called it a “touchstone” for the area. Also the plan to redevelop the Valentine Place conservation area was approved, in reality removing any actual resemblance to a conservation […]

  5. […] On 1 July 2014, against the strong objections of English Heritage and the local community, Southwark Council’s planning committee approved an application (No. 13/AP/3791) to demolish over 50 per cent of the buildings in the designated Valentine Place Conservation Area in London SE1. […]

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