Wednesday 21 February 2024
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17th Century Nottinghamshire almshouses threatened by development plans

A national heritage conservation charity, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, is calling on Broxtowe Council to reconsider its decision to grant listed building consent to a developer who plans to create large houses from the Grade II* Willoughby Almshouses in the centre of Cossall.

The SPAB says that the development would cause huge damage to this landmark building.

Planning permission has already been granted but intervention by a concerned Historic England has meant that the Planning Committee has not yet been able to grant listed building consent.

Heritage protection organisations, including Historic England, have all objected to the application for listed building consent. Organisations including the SPAB, the Council for British Archaeology, and Historic Buildings and Places have been unanimous in their condemnation of these insensitive plans which would cause so much harm to both the building and the historic heart of the village.

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© Gavin Gillespie

Under planning law, these organisations must be consulted on applications for listed building consent, but the SPAB says that as far as it is aware, Broxtowe Council failed to do so, opening up the possibility of Judicial Review if the application is granted. 

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The almshouses were built in 1685 thanks to local notable George Willoughby of Wollaton Hall who stipulated that they should house four men and four women of the ‘deserving poor’. 

One of the most striking aspects of the almshouses is the contrast between the ornate and decorative exterior and the almost spartan interiors: clearly, George Willoughby’s philanthropy only extended so far.

But under the new plans, both interior and exterior would be largely unrecognisable: the building would be ‘flipped around’ with new entrances at the back and the front doors sealed up.

Internally, many walls would be removed so that little trace of the existing dwellings remained. Large extensions and a car park would occupy the existing open backyard where the elderly occupants once grew vegetables, and a hole would be punched in the historic wall to allow access for cars.

The almshouses sit at the historic centre of the village alongside the thirteenth-century church and some ancient cottages.

The whole area is designated a conservation area to protect its special character.

The picturesque almshouses are an exceptionally fine example of this type of building.

Their importance is recognised by the fact that they have a Grade II* listing, which places them in the top 8% of listed buildings in England.

Matthew Slocombe, Director of the SPAB says:

“Given the extent of change proposed to the building’s historic plan form and fabric, its front and rear elevations, and its setting, little would remain of its special interest were the proposals to be implemented.

“We would welcome the building being repaired and brought back into use, but this could be done in a much more sensitive way, for example by providing smaller affordable homes, for which there is a real need. We urge the Council to refuse this damaging application.”

The SPAB is a charity that has as its mission to protect old buildings.

Founded in 1877, the SPAB encourages excellence in new design to enrich and complement the built historic environment. It trains new generations of architectural professionals and building craftspeople to shape this landscape with sensitivity and skill, and plays a statutory role as adviser to local planning authorities. It campaigns actively to protect old buildings at risk.

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