Retirement homes plan would destroy Conservation Area building

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A historic building in a Conservation Area could be demolished to make way for a new complex of retirement homes on the fringe of Barnsley town centre even though planners accept the loss of the building will result in “harm” to the area.

The plan is to demolish a building previously used as council offices to make way for some new build apartments and to convert an Edwardian building which would remain on site, at Berneslai Close near the old Beckett Hospital site, to provide another eight homes, which the council says are badly needed.

However, the site is within a Conservation Area which was extended some years ago to include those buildings and a report to be considered by the council’s planning board – which will decide whether the application can go ahead – accepts: “The buildings (both the Edwardian original and the 30s extension) physically illustrate both historic and communal values that are more than just secondary to appearance and still have a meaning to local people who relate to it though collective memories and experiences.

“This was demonstrated by the public support for the inclusion of the building into the extended conservation area.

“As such the buildings have heritage values that contribute to the significance of the conservation area. This contribution may on balance be a moderate but positive contribution and its loss represents some harm.

“The replacement must therefore balance the public benefits of the new build which requires the demolition of the 1938 building against the harm of the loss.”

Councillors are being advised that damage is outweighed by the improvement the scheme would bring and they have been told: “There is real benefit in providing residential accommodation within the town centre.

“However, in replacing the 1938 building it is important that the design should also make a positive contribution to both the setting and appearance of the Edwardian building and the former burial ground but still be deferential in appearance.

“The separation of the proposed replacement building from the Edwardian retained building will allow the Edwardian former hospital building to have more presence in this part of the Conservation Area.”

There have been objections raised to the plan, including concerns that the new building could cause overshadowing to existing residents in the Victoria Road area and that the development would generate more traffic, but both have been dismissed, with councillors advised: “It is acknowledged that there will be some increase in noise levels over and above existing as the Berneslai Close building is currently unused.

“Given that parking will be no closer than the existing, and that an additional boundary fence will be erected which will additionally mitigate against vehicular noise, it is not anticipated that vehicular noise from the site will overly impact on existing residents, the majority of which have rear gardens which back on to the site.”

The council’s conservation officer is satisfied the quality of the development is of a high enough quality to justify its place in a Conservation Area and the development, if approved, would also generate a payment from the developer of more than £41,000 as a ‘green space contribution’ to be spent offsite.

Normally, the council would expect more money under an agreement known as Section 106 to help offset the impact of such developments, but councillors have been told a viability assessment has been submitted, stating a case that the project would not generate enough profit to justify paying the “full suite” of contributions.