After massive local and political opposition to plans to demolish the Grade ll listed Crown Theatre in Eccles and build a block of unaffordable flats, a planning application by developer, Foregate Ltd, was withdrawn last December.
In July, new plans were submitted which also included the total demolition of the Theatre and the erection of a block of 72 flats, slated by one local resident as a `monstrosity' (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
Now, both The Victorian Society and Historic England have again lodged formal objections to the scheme, following their original opposition to the demolition proposals (see here).
The Crown Theatre (formerly the Lyceum Theatre and Crown Bingo) was built in 1899 and was Grade ll listed as a building of national interest both for its `architectural value and historic interest associated with illustrating social trends at the turn of the century' (for full history see previous Salford Star article – click here).
Historic England states in its objection to Salford City Council that "The current proposal for the total demolition of the building represents substantial harm to this nationally designated heritage asset".
The organisation adds that `substantial harm' to a listed building, according to legislation in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), should only be in `exceptional' circumstances and that consent for demolition should be refused `unless it can be demonstrated that the substantial harm is necessary to achieve substantial public benefits that outweigh that harm', or the following reasons apply...
• the nature of the heritage asset prevents all reasonable uses of the site
• no viable use of the heritage asset itself can be found in the medium term through appropriate marketing that will enable its conservation
• conservation by grant-funding or some form of charitable or public ownership is demonstrably not possible
• the harm or loss is outweighed by the benefit of bringing the site back into use.
The current planning application, states Historic England, "falls notably short of meeting the four tests above". Meanwhile, the `public benefits' arguments don't hold up either as alternative sites for the new flats had not been explored. Neither had there been "a robust viability assessment for the site considering a wide range of options and uses".
The developers argue in their proposal that the interior of building is beyond repair but, while Historic England finds this `regrettable', it adds that "the damage to the interior as a result of neglect has not considerably lessened the overall significance of the building..."
And, rather than just roll over and let the building be demolished, Salford Council should be pro-actively looking to preserve it, states Historic England... "the local planning authority must have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building in line with their statutory duty set out in s.16(2) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990...
"The local planning authority may wish to satisfy itself that the current state of the building is not a result of deliberate neglect" it adds "...The poor condition of a heritage asset in instances of deliberate neglect should not be taken into account in any decision..."
Historic England concludes: "The case made for the total loss and substantial harm to the nationally designated former Lyceum theatre does not meet the tests of the National Planning Policy Framework. We therefore object to the proposal on heritage grounds, and in line with national policy and legislation..."
Meanwhile, The Victorian Society has also formally objected to the demolition plans and is furious that it wasn't even consulted by Salford Council on the new planning application despite it being a `statutory obligation'...
"It is a matter of concern that the Victorian Society was not notified of these applications by the Council, despite their proposing the total demolition of a listed building" states James Hughes, Senior Conservation Adviser for The Victorian Society in a letter to the Council "Clearly we should have been, and not just as best practice, but as a statutory obligation. May I request that the Council reviews its consultation procedure to ensure that in future we are consulted appropriately and in accordance with legislation."
On the proposals for demolition The Victorian Society endorses the views of Historic England and adds: "We strongly object to these applications, which would entail the total and unjustified loss of a nationally significant building...The demolition of the former Crown Theatre, and the total loss of significance it would entail, is not justified by the information submitted and would conflict with the National Planning Policy. The applications should be refused consent..."
To formally object to the planning application see the Facebook page Object To The Grade ll Listed Crown Theatre Demolition – click here or pick up a form at the Nur Malaysia Cafe at 46 Liverpool Road, Eccles.
There's also an online petition – click here
The Save The Crown Theatre Eccles campaign has also set up a Just Giving page to fundraise £7,000 for an independent Structural Survey and Feasibility Study to go along with its business plan for a new community venue – click here
For further information see the Help Save The Crown Theatre Facebook page