The Malvern Civic Society (MCS) Planning Sub Committee (PSC) meetings routinely review all live applications in the Malvern urban area; these include those brought forward from previous meetings. Since our April meeting, 10 of the previously ‘live’ applications in the Malvern urban area have been approved by the Malvern Hills District Council and two refused, all by Council officers under ‘delegated powers’. There were 32 ‘brought forward’ applications and 8 new ones, all of which we reviewed. We noted the withdrawal of the development application for the Gold Hill Rest Home.
We noted the application for change of use of this hotel to private residence. Retention of this prominent Graham Road building in its present form would be welcome and we hope that the transformation period will be brief to an approved future use and occupancy.
Slow site development – Review of the Montrose Hotel application prompted an informal debate about slow progress on some other major planning applications for existing Malvern buildings. It is worrying to us that some developers appear to have little or no sense of urgency of ‘getting on’ with the job, particularly where clear approval has been given for work and the buildings concerned appear to be subject to progressive decay. While there may be good logistic or financial reasons for inactivity, there remains a suspicion that the developers might have ulterior motives.
A case in point is the applications for a site in Ranelagh Road which has Grade II listed former religious buildings.
The group of red brick buildings in Ranelagh Road Malvern Link have been unused for about ten years. Formerly occupied by a convent of nuns, the Gothic style chapel was built about 1893. Several other buildings were later added or altered to house the secluded community. The buildings and site are subject to three associated Grade II listings. The listings describe the Chapel and Cloister, the Convent of the Holy Name itself and St Saviour’s Guest House (also known latterly as Salvation House).The chapel is said to be highly significant for its internal features, the Lady Chapel screen and gallery, decorative wagon roof and two original stained glass windows.
Grade II listing bestows a responsibility on the owner to not make any change or development to a building, so that it can be reused, without express approval of the planning authority. Quite often, the cost of such work to an historic building can far exceed the cost of demolition and new build.
However, irresponsible as it may appear to be, a developer can often get away with letting cherished Grade II buildings fall into such a state of decay, or indeed to just fall down, that re-use or renovation is completely impracticable and new build becomes an unfettered option. This could be an ulterior motive in sites like that in Ranelagh Road. An unhappy situation so far as the Planning Sub Committee is concerned, particularly since there appear to be several other developments in Malvern where progressively decaying listed buildings have long awaited approved development work.
Graham Myatt May 2017