To continue the debate:
Executive Summary – Introduction and Masterplan
As I have outlined (at rather great length) any alterations to such an historic town as Warrington, and particularly in the case of the Bridge Street Quarter, must bring heavy responsibilites for the developer. Such an historical site will require extensive archaeological surveying and mapping, in order to preserve knowledge of the town’s past for future generations, which must add considerably to the costs of development.
Bridge Street is also one of Warrington’s Conservation Areas and any adjacent development must therefore not compromise the heritage character or architectural integrity of the area. There is particular concern that the proposed road layout appears to show the removal and widening of the building with archway to Hall’s Yard, breaking the visual continuity of the street scene, and a considerable open, circular space, where historically there was a maze of lanes and courtyards. There also appears to be a further, wide access point along the front of the, already embattled, Grade II listed Quaker Meeting House and burial ground, which seems a little insensitive to say the least.
The area around the Meeting House is part of the Buttermarket Street Conservation Area and the design and placement of any new buildings near to it must therefore take account of its heritage character.
The lower level plan indicates possible underground car parking and delivery areas that will involve extensive alteration of the substructure of the area. To what extent this has already been affected by earlier development is not clear, but it appears that it covers the area west of Bank Street, one of the key stretches of the medieval town.
The old Kwik-Save store and adjacent surface car parks on the corner of Buttermarket Street and Academy Way are earmarked for development. These are also part of the Buttermarket Street Conservation Area, due to their close proximity to a number of listed buildings, and earlier comments on design and placement will therefore also apply here.
As this area is the site of the Warrington Academy buildings, demolished as part of various road widening schemes from the 1970s on, this is an excellent opportunity for an archaeological dig, to enhance our knowledge of this lost architectural heritage and important part of the town’s history.
The lower part of Mersey Street at Bridge Foot, currently heavily used by traffic, appears to have been pedestrianised.
It is possible, however, that all these points have been addressed in later documentation.
Points for discussion
Have the difficulties and responsibilities for the developer in such an historic town been taken into account? How much of the budget has been set aside for recording possible finds? Will the council’s archaeological officer be on hand to monitor proceedings at each stage, in case anything missed by earlier assessments is found? How much mapping etc was done when the site was originally developed in the 1970s?
How tall will the new buildings be? Of what materials are they to be made?
Who are the ‘stakeholders’ to whom the presentation was made?
What is the rationale behind pedestrianising such a key part of the crossing point of the river? Where will the traffic be diverted to? How much of the budget will go on this?