Chelmsford tower block plans should not have been refused argues developer

Plans to create a housing block towering above Chelmsford Cathedral should not have been turned down by the city council, the developer has argued.

Planners at the end of 2020 decided that the Threadneedle building on Market Street, Chelmsford, is already of a height and scale that is unduly dominant and intrusive in its setting.

Planners added that building another two storeys would make the building even more intrusive at almost 30 metres – causing harm to the setting of the central conservation area, St Mary’s Church Cathedral and County Hall.

Chelmsford City Council said the housing block would harm the setting of a number of other designated and non-designated heritage assets in the vicinity.

The height of the extended building would be very close to the 30 metre threshold and similarly, the extension height would be very close to the seven metre threshold.

But developer Greeneedle says that as the height of the extended building does not exceed the 30 metre threshold and the extension not higher than seven metres, the plans should be allowed under permitted development rights which does not require formal planning approval from the council.

Permission has already been granted for the existing seven-storey block to be converted into 66 residential flats.

A letter on behalf of Greeneedle to the council reads: “The applicant has set out in this letter, through a recent appeal decision and legal submissions, that the local planning authority’s approach in terms of the terms of refusal of the previous application was wrong as a matter of law.”

It continues: “Clearly this permitted development cannot be undertaken for a site within a conservation area or on a building which in itself is a heritage asset.

“There are no provisions within the order that in the applicant’s submission allow the decision maker to consider the impacts of the proposed development on nearby heritage assets and to refuse the application partly on that basis has no justification within the order itself .

“Furthermore, the applicant has addressed the two additional matters for permitted development which have come into force since the previous application and shown that the scheme is compliant with both of those matters pursuant to apartment sizes and also the fire safety of the existing building.

“In light of all of the above and the fact the local planning authority raised no objections in terms of any other matter set out […] we submit that this revised application should now be approved.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter