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Ian Harvey, Joint founder of Civic Voice Is our guest speaker at this year’s Annual General Meeting. He will link us into the wider world of Civic Societies in the UK. Monday, April 11 at 7.30pm Shop Front Theatre, City Arcade Non member £2 Refreshments

There is growing concern in the Society over the number of planning applications submitted to the City Council for developments that have already been completed – retrospective planning applications. The result is that local people who might have liked to have their views heard about the application are not able to exert any influence on the decision. Matters like the demolition of buildings, conversion to Houses in Multiple Occupation, cutting down of trees or building on scheduled historic sites are now taking place without any proper planning consideration. It appears there is much flouting of the principals of planning. Surprisingly it is not illegal to carry out development without planning permission. It does not even become illegal if the retrospective planning application is refused. The Council would have to submit an Enforcement Notice first and the developer can object to that. An inspector would then hold a public inquiry into the objection. If the inspector upheld the Council’s decision then the developer would have to comply. But even then the Council has no powers to enforce the decision and would have to go to the Magistrate’s Court to get the right to take action.

The campaign to Save the Priory, launched by the Coventry Observer in February, captured the attention of medieval historian Dr Jonathan Foyle and former Time Team presenter Sir Tony Robinson. It also stirred the imagination of local people. In the 1990s when our Council was bidding for funds to construct the Phoenix Initiative there was a clear interest in the Priory’s past. Here’s an extract from the document to remind ourselves of the city’s commitment

April 2016

All of this is long-winded and expensive for Councils to follow up and although it costs money to submit a planning application, it does not cost anything to appeal. While planning is a statutory service that councils have to provide for the public, enforcement isn’t and many hard pressed councils have chosen to make savings in this area. Perhaps it is not surprising that householders and developers take the risk and go ahead with their developments without permission. In many cases the home owner or developer gets away without ever seeking planning permission. For some forms of development they can apply for a Certificate of Lawful Development after four years if no one notices the development. Interestingly it is often when a home owner decides to sell that the lack of planning permission comes to light. The Solicitors for the purchaser of the building, in order to protect their client’s interests, often require that planning permission is granted before they buy and hence all the retrospective planning applications and applications for Lawful Development Certificates. But it is not only house owners and developers who take advantage of the local authority’s lack of teeth, resources and commitment. Surprisingly there are examples of public agencies taking the same line. Turn over for a revealing story

all those years ago: “Leaving the beautiful and evocative Cathedral area, visitors will first come upon Priory Place, the site of the former Priory Cathedral Church of St Mary founded in 1043, the only church demolished at the Reformation in the years following 1545. Priory Place will pay tribute to that vital flame by explaining and celebrating as thousand years of achievement in a major son et lumiére presentation which will use today’s and tomorrow’s technology to tell yesterday’s story. It will also be the venue for an extensive programme of festivals, pageants, events and activities. We will bring back Coventry’s lost Cathedral in lights—it will rise from the foundations to remind us all of the rebirth of the Human Spirit.” Dr Foyle’s words are poignant. He is quoted in the Coventry Observer as saying: “When you shut down access to the things that make the city truly special,

people then lose interest in the place.” We couldn’t agree more. Notwithstanding the Priory campaign, we need to rethink the part that all our heritage sites should and could play in making our city a true City of Culture. Pictured left: the undercroft of the archaeology of the Priory is revealed, and below, the Priory Visitor Centre and its courtyard.


visually obtrusive. In the case of an Ancient Monument such One example in Coventry relates to the development is actually illegal, and is Blue Coat School in the Charterhouse enforced by Historic England, not by the area. About two years ago the school local authority. About a year ago the extended its staff car park which lies next school applied for retrospective planning to the wall of the historic Charterhouse permission for the car park. Fortunately Carthusian Monastery. They filled in the on this occasion the application was land behind the wall to create a nice level turned down and the school were told to site for their car park. The wall is eight remove the car park. This didn’t happen. feet height on the monastery side, yet This month the school again applied for planning permission for the car park, removing the car parking spaces next to the wall, and pulling it back a few yards from the wall, so that the soil pressure can be taken off the wall. But the car park still occupies part of the Ancient Monument land. The school have said they hope to remove it in two years’ time when they plan to build a new car park on an area currently Green Belt land that they expect to see removed from the Green Belt under the new Coventry Local Plan. The Council feels it is better to gain only 18” on the car park side. All of this control by granting temporary planning was done without planning permission. permission rather than rely on Historic However as most people know the England to take the action through the Charterhouse is an Ancient Monument Courts. Understandably the Council and the wall is Grade 1 listed. The soil doesn’t want to see the school pushing on the wall puts the wall at risk embarrassed in public. and the view of cars parked at this height, Another example of a retrospective planoverlooking the Charterhouse makes is ning application relates to the former

After two years fund raising the Joseph Levi clock is back in place at Stoke Green. On a Saturday in March residents from Gosford Park Residence Association and Stoke Park Residents Group turned out in force to celebrate the culmination of this remarkable restoration project. The four feet high memorial clock was originally purchased as a tribute to Joseph Levi, founder of the Coventry Philanthropic Institution in 1854. Ultimately there were eight societies in the city with thousands of members. The work of these societies lasted for nearly 100 years until the modern welfare state was established in 1948. Their names are recorded on the clock with the dates they were founded: Coventry Society (1854) based at the White Lion in Smithford Street; The Golden Cross Pub (1859); Chapelfields (the watchmakers) 1883; Hillfields (based at the Swan Inn, Yardley Street) 1888; Earlsdon 1900; Foleshill 1904; Stoke (1904); Charterhouse 1925.

AXA Insurance building on Corporation Street. Changes in Government policy gave permitted development rights for the change of use of offices to residential accommodation and with financial support from the Council the student housing company Study Inn took over the building and converted it to student housing. You will recall that the building had gold tinted windows in accordance with its original planning permission. Study Inn painted all the windows in bright red, grey and black and then applied for retrospective planning application for the change in colour scheme. The Coventry Society, and many others too, objected to this development. The Council had a re-think and decided that the development didn’t need planning permission after all! The Coventry Society goes through the list of planning applications every week and there is a growing number of retrospective planning applications and Lawful Development Certificate applications being submitted. Over the past four weeks there were 191 planning submissions (new applications, detailed conditions, prior notifications, tree order etc.). Of these 19 were retrospective applications and 8 were for Lawful Development Certificates. The frustration continues!

Coventry’s post-war rebuilding of its city centre was a remarkable achievement and one that has largely been unrecognised, that is, until husband and wife team Jeremy and Caroline Gould produced their book entitled: Coventry—the making of a modern city 1939-73. Some of us attended the launch of the book when we heard the co-authors speak about their fascinating venture. The story started just before the war when a new architect’s department was created within the Council. They were looking for a bright young person who could head up the department and Donald Gibson was appointed chief architect in 1939. The book details the progress of redevelopment and the innovative buildings, many of which were designed in-house. This 164 page paperback is crammed with 138 photographs, plans and maps. ISBN: 9781848022454. Availa le fro Histori E gla d’s o li e ookshop htps:// retail.histori e gla dservi es.org.uk/ ove try.ht l e ter the dis ou t ode Coventry16 o the asket page Contacts Postal address: to re eive £ . of the rrp of 77 Craven Street, Coventry CV5 8DT £ .99. U il May . Chairman’s tel: 024 7640 2030 U fortu ately postage has to Email: info@coventrysociety.org.uk e added at £ -7 .

More news and views on our website: www.coventrysociety.org.uk

Coventry Society Newsletter - April 2016  

The April 2016 edition of the Coventry Society's monthly newsletter. The Coventry Society is the civic society for the city of Coventry UK.

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