End of the road for Banbury’s last steam factory?
A planning application (Cherwell District Council 14/01685/F) has been lodged for the demolition of a range of historic buildings at the former Burgess site on Canal Street, to be replaced with six new industrial units. If the demolition is carried through, it will mean the end of Banbury’s last substantially intact Victorian steam engine and agricultural implement manufactory and the loss of the last substantive reminder of the town’s once internationally significant Victorian agricultural engineering industry. More Information can be found hereStop press (June 2015): Following the objections of the Civic Society, English Heritage, Victorian Society and 50 others, the determination of the application has been suspended, pending the results of a full structural survey. Objections remain the best way to show support for the building.Whilst run-down, the buildings are demonstrably capable of equally viable re-use. If you feel that we’ve lost too much of Banbury’s heritage already, and /or believe that recycling buildings is better than using them as land-fill, please email Cherwell District Council at planning@cherwell-dc.gov.ukASAP to say so.
Title any email ‘14/01685/F - Former Burgess Building. Proposed demolition and replacement of existing building with six new build commercial units’

Our objection is here 

How to objectAn individual objection has more effect if it is reasoned and is more than a simple cut-and-paste of a standard letter. To help us, you may wish to make one or more of the following points:We’ve lost too many old buildings already, particularly by the canal.The building is in the Oxford Canal Conservation Area. Conservation areas are supposed to conserve. Anywhere else, ‘conserve’ means "to keep, preserve or guard", “to preven injury,decay,waste,orloss” or “to use or manage resources wisely”. Turning this building into land-fill is not conservation.The building is historically important to the people. It is the last substantial reminder an internationally important engineering industry, and an associated community, that once spread from Morissons to Bridge Street.This building is a reminder of Banbury’s tradition of engineering excellence. If Banbury and Cherwell are to market the area’s high-end engineering expertise, buildings like this deserve to be celebrated, not thrown away.It is claimed the building is redundant and unviable. Others have made serious offers to take the building on and to create a courtyard of diverse businesses and studios, using the site’s heritage as a selling-point. To demonstrate that a building is redundant, it needs to be shown that nobody else is interested in making good use of it. Others are. Redundancy has thus not been demonstrated.Granting permission would show that if you neglect a historic building in Cherwell long enough, you will eventually get consent to knock it down. A precedent that says ‘neglect pays’ cannot possibly be good for Banbury or its historic canal-side.It is claimed that six new industrial units will ‘revitalise’ the canal-side area. The immediate area is already full of small commercial units, none of which have revitalised Banbury’s canal-side.To revitalise Banbury’s canal-side, we need new ideas, new uses and new footfall, harnessing the area’s heritage. Six more bland new-build commercial units located up a cul-de-sac will do nothing to revitalise the area. A revitalised heritage courtyard of diverse businesses and studios will.Don’t forget to add your name and address
Please remember - be polite! Insulting letters carry no weight and will only be used to undermine everybody else.

The surviving buildings are on the Local List for their historical interest as a reminder of lost industry and a now vanished industrial heartland that stretched from Morrisons to Bridge Street. Since 2013 they have also been included within CDC and SNDC’s Oxford Canal Conservation Area, as part of the last small group of industrial buildings on the canal.

This is not the first application to demolish the buildings on this site. In 2013, the then owner, the Canal & River Trust, submitted an application to clear the site. This application was refused, following the intervention of the council's head of planning. The C&RT then sold the site, and the site next door, by sealed bid to two local businessmen. The price reflected the recent refusal of consent to knock the buildings down, the building's locally listed status and their location in a conservation area.

The new owner of the site then approached the council with a proposal for 6 new-build industrial units and it is claimed by the applicants that Cherwell’s chief planner has personally given the proposal his support.

The Banbury Civic Society has engaged with the site owners and the Council in an attempt to persuade them that the existing building remains viable and could easily be converted to industrial units, for a similar cost to the new build. We are not alone in believing this, as another local businessman who also bid for the site has fully costed plans that demonstrate the higher commercial viability of a re-use scheme. 

The Northern Aluminium Company came to Banbury in 1931 because of the town’s strategic location and its (then underemployed) high-skilled engineering workforce. If Banbury and Cherwell are to market themselves for the area’s high-end engineering prowess, we’re missing a trick if we pay no regard to the town’s engineering tradition and heritage. 

All reason and planning policy demands that the building should be brought back into use. It remains to be seen if we can convince the councillors and council officers that this is desirable and realistic

Public comments can still be made on the planning application, but the sooner comments are made, the more likely they are to be considered. The date Cherwell will determine the application has not been announced. As the only current way of demonstrating the level of public support for retaining and reusing this part of our heritage, we would encourage as many people as possible to object to this application, demanding instead a scheme that is appropriate for what is, after all, a Conservation Area.

The planning application may be viewed on Cherwell Council’s website: http://www.cherwell.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=8938#comments. Alternatively, the plans can be viewed here. The applicant's supporting statement can be viewed here

Comments can be made by emailing planning@cherwell-dc.gov.uk. Remember to title any comments '14/01685/F - Former Burgess Building Canal Street Banbury, Proposed demolition'. 

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