Planning Sub Committee – November 2017

Planning Sub Committee – November 2017

Mike Burstow, Vice Chair of Malvern Radar and Technical History Society (MRATHS), joined our meeting to explain the ambitions that MRATHS has for the preservation and future use of the historic ‘bunker’ in the Malvern Technology Centre.

We have no new comments to make on any of the live planning applications in the Malvern Urban Area, including the new applications published in November. Otherwise, our discussions were based mainly on the appeal against the Planning Authority’s refusal of a controversial application to develop 10 -12 Priory Road Malvern, the Malvern Historical Record (HER) and Public Survey on Church Street Malvern

MRATHS Presentation re. Malvern Technology Centre ‘bunker’.

MRATHS exists to preserve and celebrate the Heritage of the Government Research at Malvern. The WWII Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) and its successors were based here until the Government relinquished the site to QinetiQ, now Malvern Technical Centre, in 2001.Plans are being developed for the regeneration of part of the Malvern Technical Centre, to include both domestic and commercial uses. Formal planning applications are likely to be published early in 2018. See October PSC Report on MCS website. It is anticipated that all buildings in the areas concerned will be demolished in preliminary site clearance.

We were told that one of these buildings models the layout and operational facilities in an Air Defence Sector Operations Centre bunker of the type brought into use during the ‘Cold War’ to counter attack by Soviet bombers. Radar systems provided much of the information to identify and track the threats; hence the siting of the building at the Malvern research establishment. The prime use of the bunker building was to support research into and development of the UK/NATO response to the airborne threats posed by our cold war adversaries and the sharing of tactical information with other centres through an extensive communications network. It seems likely that this bunker here in Malvern may be the best preserved, or perhaps the only, remaining example of a Cold War Air Defence Operations Centre.

MRATHS are mindful of the historical value to the UK of this building and seek support for its preservation of the working environment of an Operations Centre. This would closely complement the story told by the RAF Defford museum about the flight testing of secret radar systems devised by scientists at Malvern from WWII onwards. Preservation of the building would also offer an opportunity for storage and presentation of many artefacts and associated documents related to both military and civil research conducted at Malvern in the past 60 years or so.

PSC members applaud these MRATHS objectives and recommend MCS Executive Committee to offer such support as is feasible.

Appeal against refusal of application 16/01654/FUL to develop 10 -12 Priory Road Malvern.

The developer has submitted appeal (ref. APP/J1860/W/17/31827091) that the planning application be allowed, reversing refusal by the Planning Authority’s Southern Area Development Management Committee.. Planning Application 16/01654/FUL 10-12 Abbey Road- proposed that an apartment block of 6 residences on three floors be built closely adjacent to the wall forming the eastern boundary of Priory Park. The uppermost floor of the block would be visible over the top of the wall and would obstruct the eastern view from the park. MCS objected to the application on the grounds that the eastern view from the park would be obstructed to the detriment of the public amenity, which is contrary to the South Worcestershire Development Management Plan.

The developer’s justification for the overlooking of the wall by an upper story of the block is: “From the first pre-application enquiries and meetings we were encouraged to rise above the wall by the officers, and this formed our design brief. Therefore the Apartment block intentionally looks over the wall in order to enhance the heritage asset by dissuading anti-social activity from taking place in that region of the park. This is the genuine reason we were given by MHDC and encouraged by Planning Services Manager to go one storey higher than the wall (Passive Surveillance).”

PSC consider that such allegation, that antisocial activity will be dissuaded, is speculative. It would be pertinent to consider a probability that oppressive oversight ‘big brother’ by the apartment block would reduce the heritage social activity value of the park to the regular majority of users. This is also speculative. What is not speculative is the fact that the eastern view from the park would be obstructed to the detriment of the public utility. The balance of benefits therefore, on the weight of argument based on fact, is that the appeal should be dismissed and that the PSC should comment accordingly to the planning inspector. Read letter.

HER (Historic Environment Record).

PSC recently requested a summary of the work to date on the HER Project. Louisa Davidson advised that she led the MCS Architecture Group in an Historic Record search for the Centre of Malvern in 2013-16. A total of about 2000 buildings constructed prior to 1919 were included in a survey project covering Great Malvern, Trinity and Malvern Link up to and including Richmond Road. The survey’s text description of each building and its immediate surroundings was accompanied with a photograph of the building’s publicly visible facade. To complete the survey, work would be needed on the remainder of Malvern Link and the whole of Barnard’s Green. This would require committed voluntary work by Society members, particularly members with architectural expertise, computer and data collection skills. PSC agreed that an article be drafted to alert MCS members who could be interested in participating in this project.

Public Survey on Church Street

Worcestershire County Council is proposing to make changes to the appearance of Church Street in order to improve access to premises, improve traffic flows, and enhance the public environment.

PSC considered the WCC survey. Curiously, just two options are suggested, one based on restricting traffic to one-way down Church Street and the other to more or less keeping things as they are. The ‘one-way’ solution offers no suggestion about what happens to the traffic which would otherwise go up-hill on Church Street. So, given the two options, PSC considers that the lesser of the two evils is to keep things as they are. What ever the solution is, a more friendly pedestrian environment is the priority, with better management of the movement (and prolonged non movement) of heavy and delivery vehicles during commercial peak business hours.