Pru Green needs your support
  • Dear All

    You may or may not know that Pru Green has a planning application in to replace what was the St John’s Ambulance Hall with a Gallery and private residence.

    There has been quite a lot of opposition, so I am hoping you might look at the project and give your support to it.

    Of course you need to give an honest opinion, so I will give you mine.

    Pru came to Wivenhoe some years ago and operates her busy Pottery business from her home in Park Rd. Many of us have visited her exhibitions there and wonder, not only at the beauty of her work, but how she managed to produce it in such a small place (room enough for a couple of kilns and little more).

    The exhibitions take place in her living room.

    The plans now awaiting approval at Colchester BC http://www.planning.colchester.gov.uk/WAM/findCaseFile.do;jsessionid=B4F696B662153C94FF09C0CD91DB6D7A?appNumber=110608&appType=planning&action=Search

    (Click: “Make Comment”, then tick: “Support the Proposal”)

    There are plans, 3D views and the “Design and Access Statement” from Laurie Wood, the architect.

    They show a modern building looking towards the railway. I actually think it’s a great design, especially when one considers the restrictions that have been adhered to, and the very small footprint of the site.

    But my real reasons for thinking we all should support Pru are that Pru is offering something to us all. She is an internationally recognised artist. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like her work. It is just beautiful. Her gallery would be an attraction to Wivenhoe visitors.  We all know that Wivenhoe is known for the number of artists, musicians and writers it has, as well as many creative and vibrant people. Here is a chance for her work to continue to be produced in enough space to allow her some creative expansion. It is something that should be applauded and a huge contribution to the vibrancy of our community.

    The opposition as I understand it includes the fact that Wivenhoe may be short of Community Space, and that some find it hard to find places to carry out those activities. The Hall as it stands is in a poor state and will need large amounts spent on it (over £100,000) even if it were available for public usage. A lot of us have seen attempts to raise funds in the past for The Engine Shed project and others, only for them to be abandoned. That is what could lie ahead for the Hall too.

    Some of the opposition suggest they would like to purchase the hall themselves and return it to the Community. Whilst this sounds wonderful, the costs would make the project unviable. I would even go as far as saying that this opposition is made to just stop Pru’s plans.

    So I am hoping you will view the plans and feel that you could send your support of it to the Council before 28th July (final date for the application). As always, the voices of those who support it are often quiet, but need to be heard.

    Enjoy the moment where Wivenhoe can manage to have a modern, well designed and sustainable building which complements rather offends its neighbours.

    I don’t know about you, but the more we can have alternatives to more hairdressers and estate agents the better.

    P.S. PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO ANYONE YOU CAN THINK MIGHT GIVE SUPPORT

    Best wishes

    Jeff Firth
  • Good points, well made.

    I would like to know more about the community bid before forming an opinion. All that I know so far is that it is led by a resident who lives next door to the existing St John's building; Cllr Sinclair is involved as Chair of the group - something that he is very open about and always states on the record when discussed at Council - and also that the community group claims to have the funding in place.

    Do we know where the current ownership lies with please? I know little about planning, but by submitting an application to demolish and then re-build, this suggests ownership is already aquired by Pru?

    Any confirmation would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.
  • Pru Green is a very good artist, I admired her work at the recent Nottage exhibition, work that was not obviously inhibited by her present, allegedly inadequate set-up.

    Wivenhoe is a very good community, I admire the social enterprise of its many organisations whose activities are inhibited by the lack of adequate community facilities.

    I hope that the people who have been involved with the community bid will quickly respond to this so we can know whether the argument raised against its viability is to be taken seriously.
  • I find myself rather torn with this one.

    Firstly, I think the community usage thing is unlikely to fly. I agree that spending £100k on that building is probably false economy, and if that much were to be raised, the Engine Shed is a more interesting building for it to be put towards.

    Secondly, I have to agree some of her work is lovely. As a community, we should be supporting local artists, and I believe that if she has funding to replace the building, and create a permanent gallery, she deserves some support.

    However, looking in detail at the planning documents:
    Is that really the best the architect could come up with - a 2010s identikit box?
    I am sure that is a template design in the new version of Architect CAD drawing software. I wonder how much the architect charged for that?

    Replacing a 20th century box with no architectural merit with a 21st century box with no architectural merit is not progress. If this was a genuinely interesting replacement building, I would be all for it. In such an interesting central location, Pru had the chance to do something really great - but this building falls way short of what should be built. Unfortunately, I cannot give my support to such an uninteresting building in this location.
  • Interesting comments. We all have differing tastes of what is good and what is not. For that reason alone Delenn it would help if you made a comment even if neutral. The Council need to know we are interested. Unfortunately it is usually the same people who put their comments in. Perhaps with people like you saying they like contemporary design, architects will be encouraged to offer new designs in the future.

    From what I understand, this has been through numerous changes. In most cases they have been taken to comply with requests from neighbours. That inevitably will alter the original concept. But at least it offers something new. I find that refreshing and worth supporting.

  • The figure to carry out repairs that was quoted by Cllr Sinclair at a recent Wiv Soc meeting was £25k. No mention was made of any additional costs that might be required to then enable the building to be operational.

    Still - quite a gulf from the £100k quoted.
  • Hello Jeff,

    I was not going to reply to the council, but on your encouragement I think I will.

    Let me be perfectly clear, I am not saying that any building should be built in a mock style to match buildings around, nor am I saying that the building should be outrageously extravagant (think Birmingham Selfridges - a horrid building).

    What I am saying is that the external appearance of the building as designed is, quite frankly, average at best. A good building enhances its environment, a great building makes people go wow. Which is why I am critical of the architect. The responsibility of the architect is to "place" the building, and ground it in the environment in which it will be placed. As an example, this building would probably look OK up around the Flag, or somewhere on one of the estates. But, in my opinion, OK is not good enough for the lower village. The architect has, rather obviously, just drawn what everyone else is doing at the moment when asked for a "modern residential building". If the client asked for this, I would ask how hard the architect tried to show why this building is not appropriate for that location.

    Jeff, I would be interesting to know what changes have been made. If, by changes to the design, you mean changes to floor plans, locations, reducing the size of the building, then the building is fundamentally still the design the architect came up with. If the changes have been to the design (eg from a pointed roof to a flat roof etc), then maybe the architect is doing the best he can with difficult local residents.

    For the record, I live closer to Broomgrove school than I do the Co-op, so I am not a local resident to the building. So, in a way, my opinion doesn't really count. I just find buildings interesting, and the relationships between buildings even more so.

    Enough of my voice. I am interested in what others think. I may well be on an island of my own!
  • Delenn I don't think you are on your own at all. Many of us have been involved in architecture, whether we have studied, practised it, had building work done, or our children are doing it, many of us are passionate about it. In many ways that's why some find much of the new building in Wivenhoe so disappointing.
    You would need to contact the architect on this project yourself to research the issues he had to deal with. I am dealing with this very 3rd hand. 
    I know Pru and saw how despondent she was getting, having dealt with the planning issues and having opposition voices saying they want to invest in the building. I just felt very angry at what appeared to me to be a few people, who I don't know, but by the sounds of things their voices are louder than others, suggesting they want to invest in this building. I gather one was last years Mayor.
    For the moment let's forget about the costs of restoration. The purchase price is around £75000, give or take £10,000. Are they seriously going to put their own cash into this? Is this pure generosity on their behalf or are they expecting a return?
    As I understand it, the use it gets is In Accord who practice singing and the Gilbert and Sullivan set makers for painting slats.
    If more people used it, it would have to comply with regulations, and that is where it gets expensive.
    So I imagine the rental income for the investors would be - well it's a joke isn't it?
    Of course if the investors then owned it instead of Pru, they could apply themselves to make it into anything -a Community Hall or even a private dwelling. And then their £75000 plus cost of building could give them a return on their investment.
    So I saw the opposition having a variety of motives. I hope I am wrong and look forward to hearing their comments. 
    However, time is a factor in this application and I would not be surprised if there are last minute objections and all sorts of tactics employed to try and stop Pru's plans. I find that completely unacceptable. Politicians, even on a local level, should be honest and clear about their intentions. 
    And we as the folks who live here need to occasionally tell them that they can't always get away with it.
    So once I managed to get that point clear to myself, I approached Pru and offered my support. The building - well you don't like it, I think it looks quite pleasant and certainly better than most. But the planners will be making a decision on or about July 28th, so the more voices that say they support it, the more chance she has of getting approval.
    After all Pru is a fantastic asset to Wivenhoe. Artists just don't want to engage with the rather questionable practises. She did though take the plans to the neighbours a long while ago. And the resulting plans you now see are intended to take all their requests into account.
  • Well said Jefffirth. The plans (in the Town Council office) look just fine to me. I hear a lot of people supporting Pru's ideas for a modern building with studio and gallery space. They do need to make that support known to Colchester Borough Council.
  • Personalising the issue will only cause confusion: I was astonished to see, in the first post, aspersions cast that opposition might be born out of animus against Pru - I cannot imagine that that is the case but anyhow, that is a side issue.

    The main thing is whether the building is acceptable.
    I like it well enough in the abstract. But planning has to take account of locality too. The Eiffel tower is fine in Paris but imagine looking at it across the river here (please don't go with that tangent!)

    I think, from looking at the plans that it juts out incongruously when approaching from the car park direction. And I think the flat roof is odd amongst all the pitched ones.

    That's my ha'pence worth and no, I won't support it - but not because I have anything against Pru.
  • Firstly I will declare my personal interest in this issue. I am a friend of some members of the group who are looking to acquire the former Methodist Chapel and restore it and make it available for public use although I am not personally a member of the group. Their interest, and intent, for the building is genuine and significant funding has already been pledged and when I last spoke with them about this issue a couple of months ago a genuine business plan to make the building viable and financially sustainable was being drawn up.

    I won't go into the architectural whys and wherefores of this project, that is for the planning committee to decide although on a personal level the design is not to my taste.

    Notwithstanding my friendship with members of the group looking to restore the chapel I personally think that it would be a great shame to pull down a historical building for what essentially is another residential development. Brian Sinclair's submissions to the planning committee give an interesting historical perspective  which is worth reading.

    Finally I personally would question how much of a 'public' space this development will actually provide for the people of Wivenhoe. I have no doubt Mrs Green produces lovely work, but does she plan to open the space up for other artists, hold regular exhibitions etc. or will it be a residential property with effectively a 'shop window' for Mrs Green's work. Would it not be better to have a restored historical building which could be used by a wider range of the community, possibly more often?
  • People who submit their support for Pru Green's application on the basis that she is an exceptionally good potter etc (which I agree she is) are wasting their own and the Planners' time. The issue has become personalised when the planners only concern is eg the look of the building, whether it meets all planning regulations for residential buildings and whether it causes problems eg traffic, parking, access, noise, etc.

    I am also curious about the 'gallery' aspect which on the face of it is a small space and not generally open to the public. In fact the decision will be ultimately up to St John Ambulance who will decide to whom they will sell the building and at what price. Just as Pru's application should be de-personalised, so should the other plan. To suggest the other group is doing it from anything other than guenuine community interest is most unfortunate, I am sure this really iis pure philanthropy. Not everyone is soley concerned with making money. And with DIY support as Mule suggests we could all benefit from a new community asset in no time at all.
  • In a town busy and bustling with an abundance of groups, workshops, courses, events and meetings all jostling for spaces to be and do, it would seem a tad foolhardy not to look after a building that would be ideal for community use.  This former St John's Ambulance building seems to be a perfectly worthy building in need of some common sense financial input, some repairs, patches and a dollop of practical community commitment (rather than a load of armchair ideas!).  This is how we used to deal with buildings, houses, homes.  Why not try the same thing here.

    It seems that the public psyche has been overexposed to too many Grand Ideas and makeover shows suggesting that before a building is habitable or workable it needs a grand facade, gutting, demolition or pot loads of money being poured in before it can function.  Does anyone remember Gabriel Chevalier's brilliant and hilarious novel about Clochmerle?  Now there's a thought!  Let's turn the building into a Grand Urinal!  Think what that could do for the town!

     

  • Wow, can I see some personal comment creeping in?  My roll in this is completely outside Council.

    Believe me, there is no vendetta against Pru who has the same rights as any of us to apply for change of use, demolition etc.  Neither is our alternative aim against the artistic community of Wivenhoe.

    As an incomer who has only lived in the town for over thirty years I value that which is old Wivenhoe.

    I can assure you all that the group who have the money to buy the building are not looking for a return.  The capital will be a gift and the building will be run by a group of trustees as an additional community building to our already overstretched other facilities.  Hard to imagine no ulterior motive I know in these cynical days.

    The key objectives are;

    To provide a community facility for hire that is socially inclusive and accessible to all offering a diverse range of activities (including art exhibitions).

    To provide a base for heritage focussed groups to promote Wivenhoe's history.

    To encourage use of the building for learning purposes through workshop, classes and lectures.

    To provide a venue for temporary exhibitions, rehearsals and performances

    To support local acting and singing groups by various means including set painting and design.

    By improving the internal design, fittings, facilities and decor we aim to create, ultimately, a more socially intimate vebnue.  Somewhere 'nice' to meet.

    The figure of £100,000 quoted by some would include purchase price.

    I live in a 60's box so have no taste in architecture, but sorry Pru's architect, I think the design is totally out of place in the conservation area.

    What about a gallery on the Cooks Business units to add to the ambience of the lovely new waterside with loads of passing customers and a kiln only a stone's throw away in the Wivenhoe Business Centre?

    Brian
  • However nice and clever Pru Green may be, and however estimable her pottery, they are frankly irrelevant.

    There are only two legitimate decisions to be made: should the St John Ambulance Hall be demolished; and should a structure of the submitted design be built on the site.

    There's a lot of misinformation around concerning the Hall. It was built in 1871 and played a very important part in Wivenhoe's religious and social history. It was regularly used for local people's weddings and celebrations, and is in fact still used by some Wivenhoe organisations. Currently, it has not been sold but still belongs to St John Ambulance.

    It became run down over the last few years while attempts were made to sell it, but has been declared structurally sound by surveyors reporting to Wivenhoe Council and is only in need of about £35K to make it a very attractive venue again - something which surveys show Wivenhoe badly needs. It happens to have a fine acoustic, and promises to be again an excellent all-round entertaining, performing and exhibition space for local people.

    It's also in a Conservation Area, and to demolish such an historic building flouts published guidelines.

    When Pru Green's development plans became known, a concerned Group of both well- and lesser-known Wivenhoe residents formed gratifyingly quickly to buy the Hall and form a Hall Trust. The fact is it already has sufficient donations pledged to buy the Hall and soon to refurbish it.

    So there really is every good reason to preserve the Hall as an amenity for the future, and no good reason to demolish it.

    When I first heard of plans to redevelop the site I was not in principle against them, even though I have lived behind the Hall for over 25 years, thinking that Conservation area guidelines would result in a building like my own rebuild which would enhance the locality. With neighbours I met Pru Green and her architect, but frankly am most disillusioned and disappointed with the impact of the proposed design.

    The cramming of such extensive working and exhibition space as well as living space into the site has resulted in a 2+ storey flat-roofed design of oppressive bulk lowering over and overshadowing the gardens of me and my neighbours behind and beside it. These are important amenity spaces for our health and recreation as we do not possess front gardens. The CAD views in the planning application are alarmingly misleading, exaggerating the space between the Hall and adjacent buildings.

    The inclusion of such extensive working and exhibition areas in the proposed design surely also constitute a worrying change of use, effectively to a private commercial building, and on a significant number of counts the design appears to contravene rules in Colchester Borough Council's Local Plan and Conservation guidelines.

    I therefore oppose the submitted design, but am glad to support the Group's aims to preserve and refurbish the Hall as a far better outcome for us neighbours and Wivenhoe as a whole, and I ask all concerned residents to do the same.
  • What's the name of the trust, has it been formed as yet, when was it set-up, can we see details of the trust's constitution please?
  • I would like to join the discussion about the St John Ambulance Hall and maybe sort out a few misunderstandings.

    I live right next door to the old chapel, which is currently still owned by St John Ambulance. “Right next door” is a precise term because the chapel runs beside our house and garden wall at a distance of 1.4 m at the front and tapering off to 92cm at the back, and the garden is not big.  My husband and I came to live in Wivenhoe last January. We chose Wivenhoe as a place to live because we wanted to be part of a community.  Before we moved, we spoke to people at the hall and discovered that they hoped to rescue it from its neglected state and put it to general use. We thought that seemed like a good idea and we offered to be part of that plan.

    However, just after our move we were distressed to discover that permission was being sought to pull the hall down and to build a new house on the site.  At Pru Green’s request, we and a neighbour met her with her architect.  Their plans showed us that the present low building with a pitched roof would be replaced by a two-storey, flat-roofed house built on its footprint. Although the innovative planned house had been thoughtfully designed for Pru’s use, it did not strike us as immediately as being right in the context of lower Wivenhoe.

    We have no animosity of any kind towards Pru Green and, indeed we have been enthusiastic buyers of her pottery for some time and admirers of her current home, but we do have two objections to the plan we were shown.

    The problem for us and other close neighbours at the rear, were these tall flat walls, which ran, at the same proximity to us as the existing hall - the entire length of our house and garden The effect of a tall unbroken house wall so close would be to block light/sunlight and be very overbearing to us and our neighbours. We made clear how unwelcome the plan was but we made no “requests” and were offered no concessions at that time.  I see that some modifications with staggered walls have since come about (not discussed with us before the application was submitted) but none of these would be enough to offset the overbearing nature of the new structure.  This is not made clear in the application material, which shows no elevations and plans of the existing building as is usual for comparison, no new elevation on our side, but there are images which make our back gardens look extensive.

    However, second and most important, we feel that there is no justification at all for knocking down the simple, pleasant old chapel. It was put up in 1871 after much striving by the Wivenhoe Wesleyan Methodists, has served the community in many different ways since then and can be properly smartened up and made useful again for many people and their activities at a reasonable cost.  In that first conversation it was plain that there was no knowledge of the history of the chapel and that it was being written off as a building of no value.
     
    Contact was made again with the people keen to retain the chapel and subsequently funds have been pledged by a newly formed group to buy it.  This will be done entirely on a charitable basis with no question of a financial return for the group.  The plan is to set it up attractively and flexibly for the use of a variety of organisations and individuals who currently cannot find suitable space. There has since been a lot of enthusiasm from people who might hire it.  They range from those interested in displaying local historical material, to artists, to music societies, for lectures and meetings, for children’s play activities, and for parties. I should say that in all the group’s meetings about taking this plan forward, our personal predicament was part of the discussions of the group.

    The group of donors has developed a viable business plan, and estimates for the cost of fitting it out have been provided by local builders and this has been identified at around £35K.  This sum will have to be raised.  There have been encouraging preliminary discussions with various possible sources for this but it is also hoped that local enthusiasts who think this scheme a good idea, will come forward to give a hand with the practical work

    We hope that people will support the retention of the chapel and would like to say that although our own support has a double motive, the existence of a lively community hall next door to us will not be without an effect on our lives, as can be imagined, but giving it a future still seems worth it.  We hope there will be others who agree and will make their views known to the planning authorities.
  • I hasten to make an amendment to my contribution of last night.  In the following sentence of paragraph 7, the word "not" had been omitted:

    " I should say that in all the group’s meetings about taking this plan forward, our personal predicament was not part of the discussions of the group."  
  • St John Ambulance hall (formerly the Methodist Chapel)
    There is a lot of misunderstanding in the entries on both this Forum and the Colchester Borough Planning Department website with regard to the Planning Applications submitted, and the private group who wish to buy it.

    Here are the facts:

    1. The St John Ambulance property committee for Essex has a brief to dispose of the hall and to” maximise the return for the Charity and conclude the sale satisfactorily”.

    2. Pru Green has an arrangement in place to buy it from St John Ambulance, subject to her being successful with both her planning applications.

    3. These are Applications nos 110608 and 110609 ; to demolish the present building and build in its place a 2-storey building: on the ground floor a potter’s workshop and gallery and on the upper floor a private residence.

    4. There is no suggestion that this gallery will be for public use in any way except for the presentation and, presumably, the sale of her work.

    5. The group of local people who wish to buy the hall and restore it are doing it entirely as a benefit to the Wivenhoe community. They have, between them, pledged sufficient funds and this money is available to buy it from St John Ambulance. Having bought the hall they will place it in a Charitable Trust which will then hire it out to a wide variety of local groups for a range of different activities.

    6. The money will be donated. They expect no return.

    7. They have prepared a viable business plan for its future

    8. If planning permission is granted they will withdraw and the hall will be demolished

    9. If not they will publish all relevant details with regard to the Charity, its name, its objectives its founder members and management, and begin the task of smartening up the building for public use.

    10. Where possible they plan to enlist voluntary labour for this and canvas further contributions from private and public sources. Some funding for this purpose has already been promised by supportive members of the community.

    If you believe the hall should not be demolished and continue as a public amenity please post your objections on the CBC website http://www.planning.colchester.gov.uk/WAM/showCaseFile.do;jsessionid=04D9C87014C50C16532ABEE784FA5991?action=show&appType=Planning&appNumber=110608 or email Simon Osborn at planning.services@colchester.gov.uk or write to him at PO Box 889 Rowan House,33 Sheepen Road Colchester, CO3 3WG

    Tim Sherwen
  • While it is useful to air views on the forum to have any effect on the council people need to send their comments, for or against, to Colchester planning.  This is very easy.  Google Colchester planning on line, press the accept button, enter application number 110608 and send in your comment. As Moira points out the fact that Pru Green produces lovely pots is not a relevant planning consideration.  There are three basic issues - whether the existing building should be demolished, whether there should be a change of use from a hall, and whether the particular design for the proposed new building is suitable. 
  • At Last common sense appears to be breaking out many thanks to Moira and poopdecker. Also remember there are dwellings already built that I believe are suitable for Pru.
    Dave
  • Saw the plans and they certainly don't fit in with the surroundings. I'd say keep the hall as it seems in good nick inside and there are donations to bring outside up to scratch.
  • We walked past today and had a good look at the plans for the first time. A copy of the proposed building is now in place outside the building.

    It looks very much like an attempt at a modernist shoebox. These type of buildings were rife when we lived in inner city South London. They arrived flatpack from Scandavia, and were then bolted together overnight on site. They fitted the short term aim of providing instant accommodation in Sunny Stockwell, but I fail to see how something similar will enhance Wivenhoe.

    As well as the rightful concerns of the owner immediately next door to the site, I think that the shoebox will also impact on the local view looking out towards Clifton Terrace. The shoebox will stand out as a mono-culture bland piece of design, going against the tradition and history of the Victorian row of cottages.

    After giving it some thought, I have personally opposed the planning on the grounds of not keeping in with the character of the town.
  • There still seems to be some misunderstanding about the two plans for the future of the hall.

    This my understanding and no doubt Pru Green will correct me if I am wrong:

    It is important to stress that the planning application is in fact for a studio and residence, and makes no mention of a gallery, although the Design Statement gives Pru Green’s project as the demolition of the hall and its replacement with a modern building that would provide her with a studio/workshop and small gallery on the ground floor and living accommodation above.  

    According to the Design and Access Statement submitted by her architect "she wants to have the opportunity to display her work and other artist’s work to friends and visitors in a purpose made facility".

    In other words this would be a private business venture principally focused on providing her an outlet for her own work, with the additional possibility of other artists exhibiting their work at her invitation. There has even been mention of a version of the Tate at St Ives.

    It may well be that she might allow the space to be used occasionally by other artists, but it will be at her discretion, and there is no guarantee that the building would be used in this way by future owners.
     
    The alternative scheme of the group of local people, who want to buy and restore the existing hall as a benefit to Wivenhoe society, has the following objectives set out in their business plan;

    ‘To create an attractive, affordable place to meet the needs of not only those who wish to show-case their art and craft but also

    those who play a part in Wivenhoe’s many active groups; art and drama, dance, music,  etc.

    those who have a special interest in Wivenhoe’s history

    young parents and their families

    university students

    anyone who wishes to start a new organisation which would fit with our aims .'

    In other words a public venture offering a facility to any of the many groups in Wivenhoe whose activities would fall under the various categories they mention including ‘those who wish to show-case their art and craft’. 

    The Trust would be very interested to have the help of anyone who would care to advise them about displaying works of art in terms of hanging, lighting etc.

    I trust the distinctions will now be clearer to those who contribute to this forum and will help them to decide which venture to support.
  • "There has even been mention of a version of the Tate at St Ives."

    That was indeed a mention, but in this context it is nonsensical.

    James Dodds, in a supporting statement, observed that modern buildings can sit well alongside traditional building, as for instance the Tate at St. Ives.
    That was all.
  • James Dodds, in a supporting statement, observed that modern buildings
    can sit well alongside traditional building, as for instance the Tate
    at St. Ives.
    That was all.

    Classic case of "Wivenhoe Whispers".

    Is there a web link to details of the community group hoping to buy the building?
  • The Gazette is reporting that the Old Chapel Trust has raised £70,000 to keep the building in community use. A figure of £75,000 is quoted as the sale price.
  • But even the mention of the Tate St Ives' architecture casts a lustre on the proposed Wivenhoe building which it scarcely merits!

    Even so a St Ives inhabitant perceptively observed that the Gallery looks like a WW2 gun emplacement.

    There has been huge opposition to the St Ives developments from the local people in the face of patronizing "cultured" newcomers.

    The intention of the Hall Trust is that it should not be just a place for artistic endeavours, but an accessible  venue for local people's celebrations and activities as well.
  • I am sure that James Dodds meant well. The Tate in St Ives does fit well, and it is useful to look at it in terms of its context and as a replacement building.  It is built on a wide road facing Porthmeor Beach and the sea; it has modern flats alongside it with more planned; it is set into a rising hillside; it is a walk from the old town..   For these reasons, it cannot overshadow or dominate ancient neighbours.  It was built on the site of an old gasworks.
  • Whatever happened to the funds raised for the Engine Shed project? I'm sure the May Fair and other events raised a bit (although doubt it would come near bridging the gap in the Old Chapel Trust's funding). If it didn't all go on admin or whatnot wouldn't it be great if it could be used to support saving another local building for community use?
  • To be honest, I'd rather see the engine shed saved! Shame I didn't win the Euromillions!
  • The Engine Shed trust have just contacted people who donated to the original engine shed project to ask if we are content that the residual funds be transferred to the SJA hall project if it goes ahead. The aims (provision of a community amenity) are similar.
  • Let me join in the discussion about the St John Ambulance building. I have been part of the team working on the business plan as well as also being Chairman of the Engine Shed Trust. When the Trustees of the ES Project (Peter Cook, Fi Mason, Jacqueline Thomas, Janet Turner and myself) had to admit defeat in trying to get Lottery grant money to do up the ES, Peter Cook and I had a look at the St John building. I was very familiar with it as I was once President of the local branch of St John and Peter was also very familar with it as a user of the building. Then another group came on the scene with plans to turn the building into a cinema. The ES Trustees did consider whether we should support that scheme with the £12,400 of remaining ES funds but decided not to because its aims appeared rather different to those of the ES. Since the aims for the StJ building of this new group are along the same lines as we had envisaged for the ES, the Trustees agreed to support the StJ project with the remaining ES funds of £12,400 (less any of the £4,800 that was given to the ES project from donors who want their donation returned). This would make the funds available to the group more than £80,000. More than that, if Pru Green's planning application fails, the ES trustees will invite the StJ group to join the ES Committee. This means the corporate governance structure we created for the ES project, the company we created and which we have maintained and the charitable status we have simply transfers to the StJ building. If Pru's application goes is approved, we go back to looking for a suitable use for the ES money.

    From feedback and enquiries we have already received we know there is demand for more community-use space in Wivenhoe. I know also in my capacity as Chairman of the Scout & Guide Association for over 30 years in managing the Scout & Guide Hall that we turn away many potential bookings because our Hall is fully used each week by many different organisations, in addition to the 9 Scout & Guide groups which are based there.

    I do feel very sorry for Pru. I know Pru through helping publicize her fine pottery when I set up and ran the Wivenhoe Encylopedia for many years. When we had a long conversation recently, I suggested it is a pity she didn't go after one of the 'polyfunctional' apartments at Cook's Shipyard which comprise a craft workshop and gallery space on the ground floor. Pru is exactly the sort of person Jonathan Frank and the Planners had in mind to help create more interest in that part of Wivenhoe.  I believe one Wivenhoe artist has already bought one of these places.

    Peter Hill
  • Nice to see a coming together (in terms of funds and organisational structure) between the old Engine Shed supporters and the new group. Peter makes some good points about there being other suitable premises in Wivenhoe too - indeed it would be good to have something down at Cook's to make it more of a destination for wanderers around Wivenhoe as currently you just get to see a selection of empty units.

    But those who oppose the application really should consider registering their objections on the colchester planning website. It seems Pru has done a good job in marshalling support - I've never known a support proposal from someone in Dorset for a Wivenhoe planning application before! Surely a first.
  • What about a gallery in Curiosity for her works?
  • Curiosity already rent out gallery space at a very affordable rate. The shop doesn't rent out private residential accommodation, however...
  • I want to preface my entry with a general comment, which is probably the most important factor in planning issues.

    It should be remembered is that this single ruling, if the plans are accepted, will stand in perpetuity when the present participants in the situation are gone and departed.
    • The Hall once destroyed cannot be brought back for general use for the many or for any purpose.
    • There is no guarantee that a future owner of the proposed new building would provide a gallery even to the few.
    • The amenity and pleasure in living for the people who come to occupy the proposed building without a garden, and for the houses round the new building will be permanently reduced.

    I am making this contribution now because I would like to encourage people to think again about this issue in the short time before the consultation period closes. I apologise for the length of the message.

    I have been greatly struck by the support for this proposal given by a visitor to Wivenhoe, a person from Dorset, because it reflects in a more extreme form what many submissions are suggesting.

    This lady has lodged her support on the Colchester Council planning site with the large claim that the project will contribute to the entire community of Wivenhoe, to the businesses there, to the local art world and to education.

    That all sounds praiseworthy, if a little grandiose and unlikely, but many people seem to agree with all this and to share this lady’s opinion that this proposed building must be built, and the only place Pru Green’s ambitions can be fulfilled is on the site of the St John Hall in Chapel Road.

    If you don’t agree, it must be because you do not like modern architecture or you wish to put a spanner in someone else’s dreams or you have impractical alternative ideas.

    It could however be
    • that those who object do not believe that the old Hall has to be sacrificed to bring this dream about,
    • that they think Pru’s aims are laudable but there might be more suitable sites for them to be fulfilled
    • that they would like the site to benefit the many rather than the few, the artists and the non- artists and people who are both
    • that they may not object to the new building in itself but have the desire to protect the amenities they currently enjoy.

    I subscribe vigorously to the first three propositions and I will come out of the closet and dare to add, because no one else is going to do it for me, that we would like to protect the light in next door Clifton House where we moved so recently, and the sunlight in the garden, and we do not want to have this new building overshadowing and overbearing the house and garden.

    I am afraid that a building which forms a square mass (however admirable in many other ways) and which rises at extreme proximity to our whole property is less good than what we have now. The St John Hall has a low, sloping pitched roof which does not block afternoon sunlight to the garden or block light to the upper floor of Clifton House or the other houses that back onto it. For Clifton Terrace, the cantilevered balcony of the proposed house would look down over their gardens.

    One prominent and influential member of Wivenhoe society who welcomes the building says, “There is an opportunity here, on a site which is not immediately in the public gaze, to introduce something new…”

    I don’t know why a prized building should be better out of the public gaze but, in fact, it will be gazed at by all who use the lane by the Hall and by those who live all round it. The Hall was built at the same time as Clifton House and the houses of Clifton Terrace next to the railway line. Together they form a homogeneous group, which is part of the Conservation area. These existing buildings and others, which back onto the site of the Hall are likely to be dominated or overlooked by the proposed building. Do you think this matters at all?

    I will be very happy indeed to answer the door to anyone who would like to check out sunlight and shadow and the changes the proposed house would bring to its neighbours’ gardens. Come and see what it looks like from the back of the planned building and get an idea of the problems.

    Then you can make your judgment.

  • I would like to see the Hall taken over and used as a community space for local residents.  It would probably be an ideal space to install a local pottery workshop.  Years ago I spent many happy hours at the pottery class at the Wivenhoe Centre when it was used for further education and arts purposes before it was rudely snatched away by Essex County Council and turned into a school for children with behavioural problems who were unable to attend normal school.  Making pottery now involves a trip to Wilson Marriage school which is almost impossible without a car. Lets turn it into a community pottery open to all residents of all ages.
  • After reading this thread I am a bit confused! A number of comments on the Colchester planning website seem to support the proposal due to the 'gallery' being a great asset to the town. After reading through the application  I don't think there is any proposal of a public gallery at all. I don't think anyone who happens to be passing by can just pop in and have a look round, or am I wrong?
    There seems to be a lot of people who support this proposal because of who the applicant is, surely that should be irrelevant. Would the proposal be so popular if the applicant was an unknown individual? The fact that Pru Green is a talented, hard-working member of the community is great, but that should not mean that the hall should go forever, so anyone can have a new home! Once it is gone it is gone forever.
  • The point that Christiane makes about the long term future of the proposed new building is pertinent. Architectural woes aside, what happens to the building in 25, 50 years time etc? I hate to get all macabre, but we 'ain't getting any younger.

    I have no doubt that if granted planning permission then Pru will make a success of her project. But that dreaded legacy word needs to be considered, before any short term planning mistake is made.

    The kind words of support from Devon are risible.
  • Wow! one bedroomed flats are selling in Wivenhoe for over £100.000. If Pru Green buys the 'building plot'  for £75.000 and pays approx: £75.000 to build she has a two bedroomed house for £150.000. Wish I had known that was a possibility in the conservation area of lower Wivenhoe.
  • 2 bed houses are about £150k in Wivenhoe.
  • Please tell us where there is detached house at that price in lower Wivenhoe. I understand the closer to the river one gets the more expensive the property. I have looked in the estate agents and have not found any houses at that price anywhere in Wivenhoe. I just wonder if it was just a general member of the public who wanted to build a house in that area if the support would be there
  • Well, I've read all of the above posts and the planning application.

    I have no objection to Pru Green but we have a business park with space going begging for this kind of thing. And what is to stop this being sold as a commercial outlet in a couple of years?

    This is in a conservation area too, if we allow this to go ahead it makes a mockery of why the conservation area was put in place. Why not knock down some houses of the same period and put a Tesco Express in as well?

    Finally, my biggest objection is that there is a very good group who are trying desperately to secure a legacy for future generations of Wivenhonians. A community space that will do more for the arts scene here than a private gallery ever will and that is why I have objected to the application.
  • Oh and I've been watching the housing market closely, 2 bedroom places have come up for around the 150k mark. It may not be in the trendy area but there are bargains out there if you look hard enough.

  • The official response from the Wivenhoe Society has now been submitted [pdf] to the CBC site. It makes for interesting reading, asking to clarify the record that was made in the original application, stating that WivSoc approves of the project.

    Although not formally opposing the application (restricted timeframes are mentioned,) WivSoc has concerns about the change in us.

    Disclaimer: I am a member of WivSoc, but I don't sit on the Committee.
  • Let me clarify things in case they are not clear right now following the tie up between the Engine Shed trustees and the Old Chapel group and what this means for the St John Ambulance Hall:

    -  we have the funds available to buy the Hall right now if the present planning application fails

    -  the Engine Shed group has looked at buying the Hall a couple of times previously but with only £12,400 in the kitty this obviously was not enough. The difference now is that some people are willing to put in their own money to buy it for the community.

    -  If we get the opportunity to buy the Hall, it will be run under the charity which was going to manage the Engine Shed, the objects of which are to run a community centre

    -  The building is structurally sound. Internally it does need new electrics, a refurbished kitchen and toilets, and redecoration throughout.  Externally it will benefit from the roof being re-slated.

    -  We have a business plan which shows the viability of the scheme

    -  The intended use of the Hall will be as a place that can be hired example as a meeting place for societies and organisations, for lectures, for art and craft exhibitions, for family parties and celebrations, and to support the performing art groups for set design, creation and rehearsals.

    - Being run by volunteers under a charity, as was the principle behind the Engine Shed scheme, means we can keep costs down.  

    As I have said before, I feel sorry for Pru in all this but I believe the Old Chapel building has played an important and useful role in Wivenhoe for 140 years. I also feel strongly that it should be allowed to continue to do so in the future. I am one of a team of people who feel similarly and who are willing to make it happen, if we are able.

    Peter Hill
  • In the end, there is only so much you can explain.

    Knowing a few of the people involved, I have absolutely no reason to doubt that the last, and various other posts above stressing the viability of the community project are underpinned by both good faith and, on this occasion, the ability to bring it about.

    Others may remain sceptical. Nothing wrong with healthy scepticism as long as it does not descend into world-weary cynicism because that would be unjustified: Wivenhoe people once collectively stumped up a considerable sum to achieve a community project and when that proved undo-able the majority of contributors  was content to leave the contributions in the trust fund, in the hope that it might yet find its purpose.

    The Old Chapel project is realistic and feasible.
  • The consultation ends this Friday, 5th August. It is possible to submit a comment for the CBC Planning Committee to consider, either in support, or as an objection over here.

    The various submissions from different folk and interest groups around the town - and beyond - makes for very interesting reading.
  • People should note that - ominously - the CBC Planning Dept comments page comes up with the support box ticked by default, and unless commenters are careful to tick the object or general comment boxes, a comment in support will be automatically registered.

    And it's clear that several people have been caught out by this.

    I have emailed Simon Osborn asking him to look into this and register comments justly.

    Commenters who check and find they have been mis-registered may want to comment again...

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Wivenhoe Diary
Many thanks to Wivenhoe News for helping to source these dates
1 - 30 April, James Dodds exhibiting at Over the Sofa Gallery, Wivenhoe Bookshop
11 April - 10 May, Jarman's Dungeness, an exhibition by Andy Brooke celebrating Jarman's vision 20 years on, Wivenhoe Library
23 April, Italian Literature, start of a five week course with Giovanni Colacicchi, Wivenhoe Bookshop, 2:30 - 4:30pm
23 April, Wivenhoe Film Club, Bicycle Thieves, The Nottage, 7:30pm
24 April, poetrywivenhoe, Allison McVety, The Legion, 8pm
24 April, Funny Farm Comedy Club, Andrew O'Neill, Cricket Club, 8pm
25 April - start of Wild About Wivenhoe month. Various events centred around the Wildlife Garden. Full details to be published... when known!
25 April, Transition Town Wivenhoe Spring Event, open-air bicycle-powered cinema, bar, evening food, all at the Wildlife Garden
26 April, Watching Wivenhoe Wildlife Dawn Chorus Walk, meet at 5am in the train station car park
26 April, Transition Town Wivenhoe Spring Event, Art and Photography Exhibition themed around the Wildlife Garden, William Loveless Hall
26 April, Bird Walk with Richard Allen, Sailing Club, 10am
29 April, Moving Image, All is Lost, William Loveless Hall, 7:30pm
1 - 31 May, Terry Curling, Over the Sofa Gallery, Wivenhoe Bookshop
1 May, Wivenhoe in Bloom working parties, meet at Optician's garden, 10am
1 May, Folk Club, Roger Davies, The Flag, 8pm
2nd May, Wivenhoe Society Talk, Richard Moulson, CBC Ranger: 'History and Management of Colne Nature Reserve, Wivenhoe Woods and Ferry Marsh, The Nottage, 7:30pm
3, 4 and 5 May, Transition Town Wivenhoe Spring Event, Nature Trails in the Wildlife Garden, starting and finishing in the Library
3 May, WTFC Vs Diss, Broad Lane, 3pm
4 May, Transition Town Wivenhoe Spring Event, Art Workshop in the Library
5 May (and every Monday...) The Monday Club, Scout and Guide Hall, 1:30pm
6 May, W.I. Hedgehog Haven, William Loveless Hall, 7:30pm
7 May, Wooly Thoughts, knitting and discussion, Bookshop Shed, 10 - 11:30am
7 May, Bookshop Reading Group, Sara Maitland's Gossip from the Forest, The Bakehouse, 7pm
9 May, Watching Wivenhoe Wildlife, presentations about wildlife in gardens, and gardening for wildlife in Wivenhoe Library, presented by John Rowland, Glyn Evans & Chris Gibson
10 May, Friends of St Mary's AGM and Lunch, St Mary's, 11am
10 May, SingWiv! Natural Voice Singing Workshop with Chris Rowbury, Scout and Guide Hall, 2 - 4:30pm
10 May, Concert: the Voigt String Quartet - Mozart Mendelssohn, St Mary's Church, 7:30pm
11 May, Transition Town Wivenhoe Spring Event, Birds of Prey, King George V Playing Field
12 May, Life Writing, ten week course with Petra McQueen, Wivenhoe Bookshop, 11am - 12:30pm
13 May, Moving Image, Nebraska, William Loveless Hall, 7:30pm
14 May, Wivenhoe Town Council Annual Meeting, William Loveless Hall, 7:30pm, all welcome.
16 May, Shipyard Studios, Inside Out, Keel House, 5 Walter Radcliffe Road, 3pm - 8pm www.shipyardstudios.co.uk
17 May, Farmer's Market, Congregational Hall, 9:30am - 12:30pm
17 and 18 May, Wivenhoe Open Gardens, various locations around the town
17 and 18 May, Transition Town Wivenhoe Spring Event, Wildlife Garden - activities for children including pond dipping, poster competition, moth and bat evening (Saturday)
17 - 26 May, Shipyard Studios, Inside Out, Keel House, 5 Walter Radcliffe Road, 10am - 5pm www.shipyardstudios.co.uk
17 May, Watching Wivenhoe Wildlife, Moth Trapping and Bat Watching, Wildlife Garden
18 May, Watching Wivenhoe Wildlife, Moth Trapping - the reveal!
20 May, Moving Image, Saving Mr Banks, William Loveless Hall, 7:30pm
28 May, Italian Literature - part 2. Five week course with Giovanni Colacicchi, Wivenhoe Bookshop, 2:30 - 4:30pm
29 May, Wivenhoe Funny Farm Comedy Club, Paul T. Eyres and support, Cricket Club, 8pm
15 June, Watching Wivenhoe Wildlife, Wildflower Walk in the gravel pits behind the cricket club, 11am
29 June, Jazz on the Quay, 1pm