The Long Read: 52-54 Guildhall Street and other tales of “Technical Issues”

Following our ‘more tales of the unexpected’ piece in September, which briefly mentioned the gap in the streetscape at 52-54 Guildhall Street owned by Brian James Parry of Stanford and Sandra Wilson of Dover, according to the Land Registry, we took a further look at the site where the Folkestone Toning and Tanning Centre once stood, as local historians have expressed concern about features of archaeological interest that appear to have been unearthed.

Mr Parry & Ms Wilson have a long history of attempting to build on the site. In 2005, he submitted application Y05/1200/SH to construct a four-storey building comprising 2 shops and 7 two-bed flats plus another four-storey building at the rear to house 4 flats. This was withdrawn and resubmitted in 2006 as Y06/0894/SH, which was refused on grounds of highway safety and being out of character and scale with the area. It was again resubmitted in 2007 as Y07/0284/SH, which was approved – third time lucky! Several conditions had to be met prior to development commencing within the three-year time limit. We note at this time, there was no requirement for archaeology. No progress was made, so a similar plan was filed in 2011 – Y11/0766/SH. Whilst it appears this application would have required archaeological investigation, it was refused on grounds of overdevelopment and poor design standard. Finally, another resubmission in 2013, Y13/0166/SH, was granted approval with conditions in 2013.

The first condition was that development start within 3 years of approval, so by 13 August 2016. 12 of the conditions stipulated that development could not start until certain documents have been submitted and approved. Section 56 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 states:

  • “development shall be taken to be begun on the earliest date on which any material operation comprised in the development begins to be carried out.”

As of 1992, paragraph (4)(aa) has defined ‘material operation’ as including “any work of demolition of a building”.

So, work had to begin by 13 August 2016, thus the 12 conditions had to be approved by then. Unfortunately, the Conditions Monitoring Application Form completed on 20 May 2016 confirms it was only accompanied by 6 conditions. Only Condition 10, the archaeological watching brief, was approved within the timescale, on 2 August. Yet a photograph by John Baker, dated 31 July 2016 shows scaffolding on the building:

And a Google Street View from August 2016 shows the building still standing:

Could it be that the building was demolished after permission expired? Or was it torn down before all conditions had been met? This certainly seems to be the case, as Conditions 8 and 13 were only approved on 18 July 2017, after permission would have expired. Furthermore, Conditions 9 and 14 were refused the same day. Condition 12, the Construction Method Statement, still hasn’t been approved according to the Planning Portal, nor have the other 6 conditions been uploaded. Will the Council blame this on more “technical issues”?

So why are historians concerned about this site? According to recent research by one of the most esteemed local historians, Eamonn Rooney, this site may have been part of a farm that dates back to at least the 17th century. However, a building demolished in 1869 was said to be one of the oldest in the town. Concern was expressed that work may have been undertaken recently that has unearthed certain features of archaeological interest. If this is the case, we understand that Canterbury Archaeological Trust were not present as required if any groundworks are to take place. They did initially attend the cutting of a small part of the new foundations, which could well have been the proverbial “shovel in the ground” to satisfy the requirement of development starting within a set time limit, and expected to return in order to resume work.

We have already mentioned that heritage matters were mistakenly overlooked by the Local Planning Authority at the Leas Lift and Cheriton Sports Ground. It is said that once is a mistake, twice is a pattern but three times is a habit. So is this becoming a habit? We would have to say YES.

The keen-eyed might have noticed our photograph of the Royal Victoria posted several times in September was missing the clock. The clock was donated by Mrs Annie Wolton, who felt visitors to Radnor Park might find a clock useful, and installed in 1927. It survived a shell attack in September 1944 when part of the front of the building was destroyed. It has now been replaced with a modern window.

However, the Council may not have been aware of this, as the plans for application Y12/0980/SH clearly show a clock in situ, and Condition 9 (materials – windows and doors) details, submitted in April 20 as application 20/0584/FH/CON, likewise show no window being fitted in its place. It would appear the applicant is to blame in this instance. Condition 9 specifies that “the development shall be carried out in accordance with the approved details.” So why has Leo Griggs not followed his own plans and where has the 93-year-old clock gone?

Should we perhaps only count forgetting to write a condition requiring an archaeological watching brief for Cheriton Sports Ground and the issues in Guildhall Street as errors for which our Council is to blame? The answer is a resounding NO, as we can reveal another application that overlooks heritage matters.

As recently reported in the Go Folkestone magazine, application 20/0765/FH calls for the demolition of a “dilapidated garage” at 1 Cherry Garden Avenue, owned by Shuxiang Wang who also owns Seabrook House bed & breakfast. Only as historians have pointed out, it is actually an 18th century barn and the last surviving agricultural building for the ancient Broadmead Farm, after which the ward and Broadmead Village are named. This was even mentioned in the accompanying Design, Access and Heritage Statement and the report by conservation consultant Anthony Swaine Architecture Ltd. The main dwelling is the Grade II listed building simply named Broadmead, said to have been refronted in the 18th century. A map from 1698 shows this is Broadmead Farm House and would appear to include the barn. The Kent Historic Environment Record lists both Broadmead and the farmstead as dating from the 18th century.

Whilst the barn is not specifically mentioned on the listing, it stands within the grounds of Broadmead, right in front of the only entrance, and must be passed in order to get to the main house. Indeed, its use as a garage makes it ancillary to the dwelling as accepted in Debenhams plc. v Westminster City Council 1987 following proposal in Attorney-General ex rel. Sutcliffe and Others v. Calderdale BC 1982. It should therefore be considered to affect the setting of the listed building and hence be in curtilage, as defined in Section 1(5) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and Section 55(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Historic England published Advice Note 10 on curtilage for buildings that pre-date July 1948. It lists the Calderdale test to assess whether a structure is in curtilage:

  • The physical layout of the listed building and the structure

  • Their ownership, both historically and at the date of listing

  • The use or function of the relevant buildings, again both historically and at the date of listing

Interestingly, example 1.1 in the document gives a case almost identical to that at Broadmead and argues it is in curtilage.

We understand the Council have admitted that this was a “validation error” as KCC Archaeology were not consulted, which resulted in staff retraining. KCC Archaeology have now requested a historic building assessment survey to determine the building’s significance. The Council will invite the applicant to make a Listed Building Consent application if they determine it to be curtilage listed, which suggests that they may still consider demolition. Rather worrying if you value historical local buildings so significant that an entire ward was named after them.

Several of these applications were penned by Guy Hollaway, who also designed the controversial Leas Pavilion redevelopment that was recently approved, but initially without informing some neighbours and with no viability assessment made public. This also happened with 86-88 Tontine Street, so there is certainly a catalogue of planning applications that seem to have had errors on the part of our Local Planning Authority. Not to mention the Town Centre Regeneration Plan that wasn’t made public, showing a mock-up of the Debenhams building considerably altered. So what is going on at the Council? We have a piece of advice for them, attributed to Benjamin Franklin:

“wise men profit by the mistakes of others, whilst fools will not learn even from their own blunders.”

The Shepway Vox Team

Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful

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1 Comment on The Long Read: 52-54 Guildhall Street and other tales of “Technical Issues”

  1. I hear on the grapevine Leo Griggs is claiming he is NOT the owner of the Royal Victoria Hospital site. He claims the Council own the site. The Council make it clear they have a charge over flats to be built on the site, but do NOT own the site. Why would Leo claim he doesn’t own the site after his company – RVH Folkestone Limited – paid £1,250,000?

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