In 2006 the council blocked an application to demolish the derelict building entirely, a decision which was upheld by a planning inspector.
|THE BATTLE TO SAVE THE LAWNS,
We all know that Newport has lost some of its architectural gems, because of haste or wanton over development or sometimes out of necessity but this is the story of the City Council's attempts to preserve a key part of our heritage.
In this case they have battled against what may be seen as a desire to change the character of an area and it appears a desire to remove a building in a Conservation area of Edwardian and Victorian properties.
Although the Council has powers to act to preserve our heritage and to obtain ownership compulsorily it needs finance and the assistance of developers to look after our past and look after the old Newport. It is a frustrating and unrewarding process.
See related article here
Kensington Place conservation area was
designated on 4 August 1995 and is situated to the north of Chepstow Road
(B4237) just east of its junction with the B4591. It lies south of Woodland Park
and approximately 1.5km east of the Town Centre conservation area and 0.5km west
of Beechwood Park conservation area and comprises several distinct elements
located mainly in Kensington Place, St. John’s Road and Chepstow Road with many
of the buildings dating from circa 1850 - 1880. To the north of the 1850’s
terrace is a likely Edwardian terrace in red brick which retains much original
detail intact. The properties in St. John’s Road (numbers 37 – 47) appear to be
of a similar age but have lost all their original doors and fenestration. On the
west side of Kensington Place are two listed buildings, one is the parish church
of St. John the Evangelist designed by local architects Pritchard and Seddon and
built circa 1859 – 66 to serve the rapidly expanding community of Maindee.
Situated towards the higher, north east corner of the conservation area and opposite the Edwardian terraced houses, the church is built in a strongly geometric style using Old Red sandstone with Bath stone dressings under a Welsh slate roof. The church was extended in 1911 but the planned steeple was never built. Gargoyles on the tower are reputed to represent local personalities of the time!
Further south, on the west side of Kensington place, is a second listed building which is an Italianate villa originally known as The Lawn, but later The Lawns (as it became a Social Club). The postal address of this building is Kensington Grove, but it is accessed from, and visually prominent within, Kensington Place.
The Lawns is of a similar age (1870) and a broadly similar design to the terraced houses on the opposite side of the street although the scale of the building is much larger. Built in brickwork and clad with rusticated Bath stone ashlar the building had prominent bays, large sash windows and a belvedere tower. Now badly damaged by fire the building has been the subject of a Repairs Notice and a Compulsory Purchase Order.
The Lawns is set back from Kensington Place and sits within its own grounds. Between these grounds and the public pavement is a long narrow garden area which historically was the site of the ‘sun gardens’ for the 14 terraced houses opposite. This is said to be a typical Regency feature popular in places such as Bath and Bristol but rare in Wales.
Appeal June 2007 dismissed (the developer was requesting permission to demolish the building in order to develop the site, it was considered by the Planning Inspectorate Wales).
Lawns Club is a Grade II listed building located within the Kensington Place Conservation Area. The Inspector stated that in deciding whether the demolition of a historic building should be allowed the relevant planning legislation states that the following issues should be taken into consideration:- ISSUE A: Does the Lawns Club make a positive contribution to the Kensington Place Conservation Area and would its demolition adversely affect the special character of the area ? ISSUE B: Has sufficient effort been made to preserve and retain the building and to use it in an appropriate way taking into account the following matters:- The condition of the building, the cost of repairing it in relation to its importance and the value derived from its continued use. The adequacy of efforts made to retain the building in use.
The Inspector noted that the Lawns Club occupies a space within the Kensington Place Conservation Area, where it presents an imposing classical structure. He added that without replacement, it would deprive the conservation area of a building of considerable architectural merit. Despite being the subject of vandalism and neglect, the building still retains the architectural style and imposing scale of a grand residence in this part of Newport. The Inspector further stated that the Lawns Club is a good example of an Italianate villa contributing significantly to the special character of conservation area. The proposed demolition of the Lawns Club would not preserve or enhance, therefore, the character and appearance of the Kensington Place Conservation Area.
The Inspector stated that the current condition of the building is poor. A 2001 survey stated that if the roof was not repaired, the building’s exposure to the weather would lead to its rapid deterioration and would result in further structural damage.. Despite this advice, no temporary works have been undertaken to safeguard the building, as such, further decay has occurred.
The Inspector noted that the Appellant’s architect has estimated the repair costs to bring the building to a reasonable condition would be £670,000. He appreciated that costs could go higher depending upon the result of further investigations into the state of the building. The Inspector added two current planning permissions, for conversion of the building into two dwellings (which included the partial demolition of a flat roofed extension) and for the construction two detached dwellings within the Lawns curtilage, have not been carried out. He considered that such enabling development would have a substantial after value that may adequately cover repair costs. The Inspector noted, however, that the Appellant had failed to provide any figures for estimated market value of the repaired building and had failed to demonstrate that it would not be economically viable to preserve the building. He added that from the evidence provided the building has been deliberately neglected since the Appellant took over the property in 2001, as there has not been any attempt to make it waterproof or to stabilise damaged areas. The relevant legislation, in these circumstances, advises that less weight should be given to repair costs.
The Inspector stated, in conclusion, that whilst it is acknowledged that the building is in a poor state, there is no convincing evidence that it would not be cost effective to repair and restore it as part of the approved scheme for the site, or that it would not be a viable and attractive proposition for another developer, if offered on the open market. He added that he did not accept that all reasonable efforts have been made to retain and preserve this listed building and therefore, it would not be appropriate to allow it to be demolished.
Following the dismissal of the appeal the Council issued a repairs notice in 2008 based upon the following
a) Late in 1997 The former Lawns Club (11,
Kensington Grove) was listed grade ll ‘as a good example of an Italianate villa,
contributing to the Kensington Place Conservation Area’ and having ‘group value
with Cambrian House and the Church of St John the Evangelist’. The building was
vacant and fire damaged at the time of listing. During the period 1997 – 2002
the condition of the building continued to deteriorate. During the period 2002 -
03 Planning and Listed Building Consents were granted for the conversion of the
building to two flats and for the construction of two detached dwellings in the
grounds as a form of ‘enabling development’ to fund the restoration of the
c) During the following three year period work commenced on the new dwellings but no work was undertaken on the listed building. Several fires caused even more damage to the listed building and the ‘as built’ positions of the new houses were found to be contrary to the approved planning consent and the new work had to be demolished.
e) Following the appeal the owners of 11 Kensington Grove were advised of the Council’s powers relating to the Compulsory Purchase of listed buildings. A programme of works for the restoration of the listed building was prepared by the Council’s Conservation Officer and the owners of the building were advised that unless the works indicated on the programme were executed in accordance with the time scales indicated the Council would seek to use its powers of compulsory purchase.
A Newport City Council report in June 2009 stated
"Serious decline in condition since 2004 inspection. Application to demolish refused and appeal dismissed. Repairs Notice served. Progressing towards making a Compulsory Purchase Order."
A failed attempt to carry out a compulsory
purchase order was followed by another attempt in September 2012
The City Council's Cabinet was informed that 11, Kensington Grove was a grade ll listed building which had fallen into decay. In 2008, steps were taken to acquire the site with a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) in order to restore the building through a “back to back” agreement with a suitably experienced developer. The original developer withdrew from the scheme due to the financial environment, but a new developer had now been secured. Cabinet was invited to re-consider the issues associated with the property in light of the current situation.
A planning application by the owner to restore and convert the building into two flats with a total of 14 bedrooms, as well as build two new houses on the site, was thrown out by Council planners in October 2017. They stated "The merits of the proposals which include the restoration of the listed building and new dwellings within the urban area are duly noted. However, the application is lacking in sufficient detail to enable the local planning authority to determine the impact of the proposals on the special character of the listed building and conservation area."