Chippenham Civic Society

Promoting Civic Pride in Chippenham

Planning Matters

A Multi-storey car park in the Olympiad car park?

August 2018

Wiltshire Council is preparing to submit a planning application for an office block and multi-storey car park on the existing Sadlers Mead, Olympiad car park. The new car park would be 4 storeys high, (15m or just under 50 feet) and occupy the lower half of the existing car park overlooking the park itself.  The offices behind would be occupied by the ‘Good Energy’ company.

Monkton Park in 2018

BEFORE – Monkton Park looking towards the Olympiad Car Park in August 2018

From the river walk through the park it would dominate the view as it would be situated on the crest of the hill, especially in the Winter when trees have lost their leaves. Chippenham Civic Society are horrified by this proposal, believing it to be inappropriate to the site.

Multi-storey Car Park

AFTER – A photo montage of how the car park will look from Monkton Park, – picture taken from the Council’s own proposal document.

Chippenham’s main asset is the River Avon running through the centre of the town. Over the years the planners have not made the best of it. In fact, they have done everything they can to ignore it and pretend it isn’t there. They have built shops with their backs to it, car parks and offices along it, an ugly weir, plain bridges and fast roads next to it. The river has been canalized so wildlife is discouraged and most buildings of interest near it have been demolished.

Monkton Park is the exception and includes the best views of the river that remain. The latest proposals to build a car park and offices which will dominate the park and be seen from all directions is, in our opinion, a very bad idea and should be rejected now. The green spaces of Monkton Park have already been eroded by inappropriate developments and we must protect what is left. It is used and enjoyed by most people in the Chippenham area, and is an extremely valuable asset. It appears that mature trees will also be lost in this development which may have been part of the original parkland.

There are offices in town which have not been used since they were built and although we are pleased ‘Good Energy’ want to invest in the town we think there must be more appropriate sites for this kind of development. For a few this would be a wonderful location but not at the expense of the town.

Traffic congestion on Station Hill is certainly a concern. We would question exactly who would use the proposed increased parking provision in a location which is not convenient for the town centre.

To see the full proposal visit:  http://wiltshire.gov.uk/news/articles/sadlers-mead-car-parking-consultation-today

Chippenham College – Why we believe the original building should have been saved from demolition.

22rd March 2018

Plans have been approved to demolish the former Chippenham College in Cocklebury Road.  Part of the old college complex is the original Chippenham Secondary and Technical School Building which was constructed in 1900.

Chippenham College in happier daysWe see this as a lost opportunity and another example that Chippenham’s heritage is as much at risk as it was in the 1960’s.  Had this been Salisbury or Oxford we are sure efforts to retain it would have been greater.

Many people in the town also feel that buildings with history and character like this should be restored for community use or at least retained within any new development.  A good architect with the right remit can do this easily.  What is not so easy is persuading the developers or the Council to make the effort, rather than seek short term capital gains.

We all want to see Chippenham prosper and continue to be an attractive place to live.  One of the reasons given by developers for building retirement apartments in the town centre is that it is a thriving and attractive town with many local amenities.  New buildings should not be at the expense of the very character that makes Chippenham a special place for those who already live here.

Historical Significance

As an example of late Victorian design for the state secondary education sector, the original building represents a significant step change in the provision of education facilities in Chippenham at the turn of the 20th Century.

After the Technical Instruction Act of 1889, local authorities were empowered to set up schools to provide instruction in the principles of science and art as applicable to industry and agriculture.  By the late 1890s, the growing number of pupils attending the existing school in Chippenham, forced the Rural District Council to construct this purpose built Technical and Secondary School in Cocklebury Lane.  The building has fulfilled this function for over a 100 years and its loss would leave a significant gap in the history of Chippenham’s growth.

Early post card of Chippenham and District County School

Plans for the Chippenham District Technical and Secondary School in Cocklebury Road were first submitted to the Rural District Council in 1898 as part of a building design competition.

An article from 1898 showing the winning plans submitted for the new Chippenham Secondary and Technical School.

 

The project was overseen by Alderman John Coles, a noted local benefactor and townsperson who also provided money for the local park named after him.  The chosen design was a scheme submitted by Robert Brinkworth (born 1871), who worked for the Bath architect Thomas Hall Silcock.  (Silcock and Reay of Bath).  The building was opened in 1900 and the first chair of governors was Alderman John Coles.

Robert Brinkworth was articled to the Bath company of Silcock and Reay, who were responsible for many other churches and local schools in the South West, including Swindon Technical College which has many similar characteristics and has been recently listed and saved from demolition.   

(See:  http://www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/13714693.New_life_for_Swindon_s_old_technical_college/#/ )

Robert Brinkworth commenced his practice in Chippenham in 1896 and completed not only the Chippenham Technical School, but also Secondary Schools in nearby Malmesbury (now demolished) and Devizes (later Devizes Grammar School, now owned by Wiltshire Council).

Its construction was made possible by using both local council money and public subscriptions. (The latter amounted to over £1170 – nearly 25% of the total cost).

Postcard of Technical School

At the turn of the 20th Century the Borough Council intended to name and dedicate the school building to the memory of King Alfred the Great who is associated with Chippenham both by residence and by important events in his reign exactly 1000 years previously.

Architectural Importance

The Chippenham Secondary and Technical School building represents a style of architecture much in favour when secondary technical education was introduced in Chippenham at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Building work began with the laying of the foundation stone on 7 October 1899 by Lady Dickson-Poyner. The building costs were fixed at £3,500 but the total to build and equip the school amounted to over £6000. The school was built of red brick and the roofs were to be covered in green slate.  This was later changed in favour of red tiles due to costs.  The proposed plans show a rear assembly room but this was never built.

The Building has been boarded up for several years but when fully functional was an attractive and important building and can be seen from the windows of the frequent London to Bristol Trains. It therefore has a significant visual presence for visitors as well as for local people who have been educated there.

 

Perhaps the first view many visitors to Chippenham have as their train pulls into Chippenham Station.  The Secondary and Technical School opened in this building in 1900.

Perhaps the first view many visitors to Chippenham have as their train pulls into Chippenham Station. The Secondary and Technical School opened in this building in 1900.

This style of public building, built as it is in red brick, is unique in Chippenham where the predominant construction material in older buildings is Bath Stone.  It is the oldest building left on the original Chippenham College campus, part of which has recently been redeveloped.  It was described in the Chippenham Area Appraisal of 2007 as a ‘building of note’.  It is mostly in original condition inside with parquet flooring throughout the classrooms, although it has been deliberately neglected in recent years.

Wing Entrance

The front windows are large and imposing, letting light flood into the main classrooms.  An original arched doorway to the front has been blocked up, but could be reinstated.  It has architectural merit in that it is well proportioned and has elements of the then popular Arts and Crafts movement in its design, namely the overhanging eaves, and ventilation louvers on the imposing roof.

 Front Elevation Boarded up

It has an additional lean-to extension to the rear of the East side and is attached to large modern extensions to the west and south elevations.  These were built in the late 20th century and could be demolished.

Cultural and Community Value

The teaching of practical lessons continued in the building from its early days right through to the 21st Century.   The loss of this important building now would remove a central part of Chippenham’s cultural heritage.

The building is included in the Chippenham Conservation Area and is noted in the Conservation Area Appraisal document dated 2007  as one of the few buildings of architectural note in this area of Chippenham; the other main buildings being the 1856 Railway Station, the 1935 Public Telephone Exchange and the art deco Westinghouse building across the railway line.

The present day college continues in a brand new building on the adjacent site, but this original building forms a backdrop to the modern world of education and is a vital part of Chippenham’s social identity.  This building should be retained for use and could be converted to become the historical gateway to a new development at the rear of the complex as was achieved when the college extensions were built.

We therefore oppose its demolition and would encourage the owner to incorporate it with a more sympathetic development at the rear of the site.