English Heritage announce they assessing Arlington House and Site for Listing

News came through today that English Heritage are offically assessing the whole of the Arlington House site for listing. This includes the shops and carpark. We haven’t yet had full confirmation from Thanet District Council but they have managed to say that they received a letter from English Heritage. But we have spoken directly to English Heritage who confirmed the news. Hopefully, this information will be made available to the Planning Committee before this evening, who one would imagine now, shouldn’t be making any rash decisions that will have to be reconsulted. That would be highly unorthodox, given the circumstances.

Half truths as always

TDC’s Public Document Pack for tomorrow’s Planning Committee meeting  (Weds 19th of October, at 7pm) contains the independent report commissioned from Dr Chris Miele of Montagu Evans.

However, the Council is presenting to Committee Members with a summary of the report (Agenda Item 5)  which only outlines two out of the four reasons why English Heritage upgraded the Scenic Railway in June from Grade II to Grade II*. And unsurprisingly, the two reasons outlined: ‘rarity’ and ‘design’, are the two probably not affected by the proposed development. The two reasons that would be effected by the development: ‘historic interest’ and ‘group value’ are left out of the summary. The selective exclusion of these two reasons from the report to Members is misleading.

English Heritage Reasons for the Upgrade of the Scenic Railway in full:

1. Rarity: It is the oldest surviving rollercoaster in Britain and is of international significance as the second oldest in Europe and amongst the five oldest in the world of this prominent C20 entertainment structure.
2. Design: Scenic railways are amongst the earlier types of rollercoaster design and it is an internationally important surviving example of this first generation of moving amusement technology.
3. Historic Interest: As an important and evocative aspect of the seaside heritage of Margate, one of the earliest and foremost English seaside resorts and Dreamland, its principal amusement park.
4. Group value: It groups with Dreamlands other listed buildings the Grade II* cinema and Grade II menagerie.

Read the full English Heritage Upgrade Report for the Scenic Railway 29th June 2011.

TDC’s public document pack for Planning Committee on Wednesday 19th October:
http://tdc-mg-dmz.thanet.gov.uk/mgChooseDocPack.aspx?ID=2305

Sadly and disappointingly, Thanet District Council’s Conservation Department response to the Miele report also only covers these same two reasons for the upgrade.

If you probe further into the reasons for upgrading, it becomes clear that the proposals would harm them:

“Historic Interest: as an important and evocative aspect of the seaside heritage of Margate, one of the earliest and foremost English seaside resorts, and Dreamland, its principal amusement park”

Will riding the Scenic still be “evocative” with a blank shed wall towering?

“Group value: it groups with Dreamland’s other listed buildings the Grade II* cinema and Grade II menagerie.”
The Discussion part of the document says that it “groups strongly”. By definition, group value is about relationships, and the relationship between the structures is definitely impacted upon by the proposals.

We believe that Planning Committee Members are being mislead by the content of Agenda Item 5 and they should reject it outright.

It is also worth noting that English Heritage are quoted in the Council Agenda item as confirming: “that the upgrading of the Scenic Railway from Grade II to Grade II* will have no significant effect on the process [our emphasis] of assessment of the impact of the development on the setting of the heritage asset.” English Heritage refer to ‘process’, yet the Council translate this to having no effect on the outcome. Process is not the same as outcome. We are awaiting confirmation from English Heritage on whether they were aware that section drawings submitted for consultation between the Arlington site and Dreamland have a 4m error.
Dreamland Trust’s response to the Miele report

We will be gathering on the steps of the Council Offices tomorrow from 6pm -7pm as a silent protest.

Arlington consultation based on misleading drawings

When Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State, English Heritage said they had considered carefully the information and the application, were they made aware that the validated drawings showing the relationship between the Arlington site with the proposed superstore structure and the adjacent Dreamland site are not a true representation of the proposal and its context?

Background:
Through a series of communications with TDC Planning Officers, it has been established that important drawings published on www.ukplanning.com/thanet ref F/TH/10/1061 do not show the true representation of the difference in ground levels between the Arlington and the adjacent Dreamland site. The reality is that the Arlington site is between 3 and 4 metres higher than the Dreamland site.

The drawings include:
080417-A-P-Si D112
080417-A-P-Si D112A
080417-A-P-Si D124

This substantial difference in ground levels is fundamental to understanding the relationship between the proposed development and its context which includes the Grade II Listed Sangers Menagerie, the Grade II* listed Scenic Railway and the Grade II Listed Dreamland Cinema.

In effect, seen from Dreamland side, the rear of the proposed Tesco Superstore would be up to 4 meters higher than how is represented in the submitted drawings. This seemed to be an issue and so we asked TDC’s Planning department for confirmation.

They explained:
“The Drawings are of the proposed store building, not the ground level outside the application site.”

In other words, one should look only at the outline of the proposed superstore but not at the surrounding context represented in the drawings. So drawings have been validated and sent out for consultation where not all of the information contained in the drawing is to be viewed as an accurate representation of the site?

We thought this sounded odd, so we checked what we would have to include in section drawings if we too were going to submit an application to build a structure next to listed structures. Officers responded stating that showing the adjacent sites in a scaled drawing is mandatory, especially when Listed structures are involved.

Do we have a point that English Heritage and the Secretary of State have not been shown drawings of the site that are accurate when they issued their opinions?

Let’s have a look at our to scale section including the Scenic. Perhaps you might like to ask the National Planning Casework Unit about this: npcu@gowm.gsi.gov.uk Citing ref: F/TH/10/1061
Or ask Thanet’s Planning Department yourself and see what reply you get. We’d be happy to hear an update. planning.services@thanet.gov.uk


Will proposed works to Arlington House improve it?

Tucked away in the Planning Committee Agenda document pack for the Planning Committee hearing next Wednesday the 19th of October, there is a Supplementary Agenda item: Timing of Proposed Works to Arlington House. Remember that despite this planning application (F/TH/10/1061) not being yet officially decided on. No final Decision Notice has been issued, the public is not allowed to comment on these documents.
The report states:

“Since the report regarding the timing of development was written the applicant has advised that the works to Arlington House (except the 31 flats where the applicant’s control is unclear) can be completed prior to the trading of the store, rather than the fit out of the store.”
Do you see which bit is relevant here? We have always drawn attention to the legal dispute that Freshwater have with promising TDC a refurbished facade of Arlington House as a trade of for granting permission to build the massive superstore. And here we have it.
The original windows will be replaced in flats that Freshwater control, but this leaves 31 flats in dispute. 31 flats in random positions in the facade, will retain the original windows.
Is this an improvement or inappropriate patchwork?

The original Arlington House windows have light grey, slim aluminium frames, clear glass with horizontal sliding. They have been in place for almost 50 years. Can you say that about any variety of Upvc window available? And how about on a seafront location like Margate?

All glazed panels are the same size with equally spaced mullions. The profile of the opening windows is the same as the fixed panels. This fine and considered detailing results in a constant regular rhythm in the facade.
The proposed replacement windows will be thick framed dark Upvc framed with tinted glass, irregular mullion spacing and thicker framing where opening windows occur.  So uneven spacing in appearance.
Will the window replacement improve the appearance of the building or result in an unsightly patchwork?
The applicant has provided samples on the facade, a computerised visualisation and scaled drawings. The 3 representations show different window configurations. None of the representations is of the windows that are actually being proposed.

Dreamland Trust’s response to TDC ‘independent’ heritage report

Dreamland Trust have commented in response to the ‘independent’ TDC commissioned report written by Chris Miele. This Dreamland document will not be presented to the Planning Committee on Weds October 19th. Dr Miele’s report, however, will. This Dreamland Trust document has not been published by TDC along with other relevant documents, such as Miele’s report, for information on UK Planning.
We are informed by TDC that Dr Miele’s report is only an Agenda item and as such, public speaking or comment is not, according to the Council’s constitution, allowed.
Is the public and the Planning Committee to be denied access to the opinion of the expertise of the Dreamland Trust? Given the importance Dreamland is to Margate and it’s future?
Here is the response from Dreamland Trust to Dr Miele’s report sent to TDC 12th October 2011.
Planning Committee
Thanet District Council
Cecil Square
Margate
Kent
CT9 1XZ12 October 2011Dear Members

PLANNING APPLICATION REFERENCE NUMBER F/TH/10/1061 (ARLINGTON HOUSE & 1-50 ARLINGTON SQUARE, MARGATE CT9 1XP)

We understand that members are being updated on the application to build a 7,565 square metre superstore on top of the existing multi-storey Arlington car park in light of the recent upgrading of the listing status of the Scenic Railway. We are writing to formally object to the proposed plans on the grounds of the impact the development will have on the setting of Dreamland site’s suite of heritage assets: the recently upgraded Grade II* listed Scenic Railway, the Grade II* Cinema building, and the Grade II listed menagerie cages and we are also concerned about the potential harm to the fabric of the menagerie cages.

The proposed superstore is too big for the site. The metal-clad back wall of the superstore will dwarf Dreamland’s heritage assets, providing an overbearing and inappropriate backdrop to the group of listed structures and the landscaped amusement park that is being rebuilt around them.

We also question Dr Chris Miele’s report, Expert opinion on the proposed redevelopment of Arlington House and the effect on Heritage Assets, commissioned by Thanet District Council and (we understand) funded by the developers.

We consider Dr Miele’s report to be biased and factually inaccurate, and we question why the Council described the report in a recent press release as “independent”.  For this report to be truly independent there needs to be evidence that there are no conflicts of interest.

Evidence that the report is not being written objectively can be found even in the introductory paragraphs, where he states at paragraph 1.12:

“The application site is in the setting of the following listed buildings which I have considered: the Grade II* Dreamland Cinema, Grade II animal cages and menagerie and the Scenic Railway already mentioned, now graded II*.  The application site has been excluded from the Margate Conservation Area. Their exclusion from it is noteworthy and reflects, I assume, the degraded immediate setting of the listed structure and the menagerie/cages.”

His reference to “the application site” here should be to the Arlington site, but the following sentence states “their exclusion from it”, which suggests he is actually referring to the listed structures.  If that is the case (and really he needs to explain which he is referring to), there can be no justification for stating that it is “noteworthy” that the structures are outside the conservation area and that the “degraded” setting may have contributed to it, unless he is laying the foundations for a report that is going to be diminishing their importance.  In addition, he should have been aware that the conservation area was defined in 1997 when Dreamland was operating.

He also has not considered the potential for damage to the animal enclosures anywhere in his report.  At first glance, he may have excluded this thinking that it had no relationship to the upgrading of the Scenic Railway.  But damage to the enclosures, that could result in their partial or complete loss or damage, would undermine the Scenic Railway due to its strong connection to the enclosures (see 3.30 for his understanding of these functional and historic relationships).

The 18TH-century Gothick wall supporting the menagerie cages and cottage abutting the Arlington car park are fragile structures and building works may jeopardise their integrity.  The Prince’s Regeneration Trust’s Conservation Management Plan (2010) describes the wall as being in a very precarious condition; the cages in an unstable state and currently substantially held up by temporary propping.  The lintels appear to have failed completely in the smaller cages with the triple arch head to the largest cage being dependent on propping.

In 3.31 Dr Miele incorrectly suggests that English Heritage did not give great weight to the setting of the Scenic Railway because it is degraded and no longer functional (in fact, he states its setting is “lost”).  He is obviously not aware of the fact that the park is to be rebuilt and that English Heritage has been involved in this project so is fully aware of it. This point significantly undermines his report and we would ask that he review his statement in the knowledge that the functional/historic setting of the Scenic Railway is not lost. This theme runs all the way through the report and we believe materially affects his overall conclusions.

He also mixes up his ‘wests’ and his ‘easts’, suggesting a lack of understanding of the site’s context (e.g. 4.18, 4.21).

His conclusions on rarity in 4.29 are completely wrong, again demonstrating that he was not properly briefed on our plans and seemingly unaware that English Heritage has been closely involved.

4.21 is wrong. The land to the east of the Scenic was always part and parcel of the Dreamland land holding and these views should be treated with equal importance (albeit part of it was leased to Margate FC for a few years at the time that the Scenic Railway was erected).

His second point in 4.22 is technically correct, but again does not take account of the development that will reinstate the Scenic’s original setting.  Regarding his third point, the Scenic’s setting will be mediated by landscape in the future, but that landscape would not disguise the overbearing appearance of the rear of the shed.  In 4.23 he admits he has not seen our landscape proposals, but he could have seen them on the Dreamland Margate website (www.dreamlandmargate.com) and in the Sea Change documentation. The Council should also have made him aware of this when he was briefed.

4.31 to 4.33 is very weak and almost doesn’t consider the effects of the new building at all, other than saying it is not actually on the site. It is in this section of his analysis that we would have expected to see some acknowledgement of impact.

Throughout the next few paragraphs he again relies continuously on the fact that the setting has been compromised (4.38 is yet another example of this).

In 5.2, we are not sure how his report allows him to conclude that the new building will not intrude on the aesthetic appreciation of the structure.  Dr Miele appears to completely misunderstand the aesthetics of the Scenic Railway.

He refers to the technical and engineering aesthetic of the Scenic Railway as seen from an observer’s perspective.  He does not discuss the aesthetics of riding the Scenic Railway from a passenger’s perspective and that is the point – the roller coaster is called the Scenic Railway because of the vista from the train, which is the unique selling point of the ride.

The scenery around the Scenic Railway is a fundamental part of the ride.  Our Stage 2 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund describes the full restoration the Scenic Railway to its former working glory.  If we are going to invite visitors to pay to ride the fully restored Scenic Railway to its former glory then we will be peddling a lie. Additionally, Thanet District Council’s application to the DCMS Sea Change fund for the reinstatement of Dreamland was granted with the condition that landscape architects led the project. Landscape is at the heart of the Dreamland project.

It is abundantly clear that the proposed large-scale superstore will have an adverse impact on the overall aesthetic of the park, its landscaped gardens and picnic areas.  It puts at risk the Grade II listed menagerie cages, gothick wall and cottage and compromises the setting of the Grade II* Scenic Railway. This development will ultimately degrade the visitor experience.

We would also like to point out that it is the local authority’s stated aim to improve the setting of Dreamland’s listed structures and allowing this structure on the boundary of the site is directly contradictory to that aim.

Yours faithfully

Nick Laister
Chairman
For and on behalf of The Dreamland Trust

Cc Alan Byrne, Historic Buildings and Planning Advisor, English Heritage
Tom Foxall, Historic Buildings Inspector, English Heritage
Cherry Aplin, Assistant Planning Manager, TDC

Bodyscape architectural exhibition Tues 18th October

Image

First year students of Interior Architecture and Design from Canterbury School of Architecture in collaboration with Margate based Studio#Two are putting on an exhibition at the lower carpark site behind Arlington House exploring ‘the body in space’.

Date: Tuesday 188th October
Time: 12.30pm-5pm

More info:
www.studiohashtwo.com