Town Centre Conservation Areas – Preserving Warrington’s Historic Core?

A while ago I needed to check a date on a building on Bridge Street so, rather than look through all my notes, I did a quick Google search. One of the documents it threw up was a Conservation Area Appraisal for Bridge Streetprepared by the council’s planning policy department in 2006. This made very interesting reading, despite none of the photographs and maps having downloaded with the text, but a re-direct from the council led me to a, rather obscure, page where the downloads had functioning images.

Thus began a trail that seems to be leading me into discoveries that are making me more and more concerned.

It started simply enough. I noticed that Figure 1 on the Bridge Conservation Area Appraisal, a map showing the extent of all the Conservation Areas in the town centre, included one for Winwick Street, the ancient route to and from the North, but there was no appraisal on the council’s website. Further examination of the page to which I had been directed showed management proposals for only two thirds of the Areas.

When I contacted the department about the missing documents I was effectively told that, despite starting off full of good intentions and best practice, the council had basically run out of cash with the recession and Conservation Areas were now a low priority. Mention was made of listed buildings; another Google search found a document on the council’s website giving details of all listed buildings within the borough.

A comparison of the Winwick Street Conservation Area shown in Figure 1, the listed buildings for Winwick Street detailed on the council’s website and StreetView, showed the east side of Winwick Street, the Conservation Area, in an extreme state of dilapidation, with building site hoardings replacing the nineteenth-century tannery and a surface car park on the site of three shops; and the west side of Winwick Street, for some reason not in the Conservation Area, completely demolished, from the King’s Head pub all the way to Tanner’s Lane. This demolition includes three of the listed buildings on this side of the street.

I really am not sure what to make of all this. Listing a building identifies something that is nationally important and if it is demolished it deprives, not just the people who live locally but, the entire nation, of a piece of their architectural heritage. And what is the rationale for demolishing pretty much an entire street? (There are pictures of how it used to look here.)  How can it happen on the council’s ‘watch’ and opposite a Conservation Area? What is being done to protect the other buildings in Warrington’s care from similar depredations?

I just do not understand how this sort of thing can be allowed to happen.