Letter: The Town Hall should be protected not redeveloped

Crawley Town Hall pictured last August. Pic by Steve Robards
Crawley Town Hall pictured last August. Pic by Steve Robards

I object to this planning application on the grounds that there are important heritage considerations that have been overlooked in pursuit of a relatively short term development fix.

The lack of any heritage assessment on the basis that the existing Town Hall has not yet been listed by English Heritage is somewhat disingenuous in view of the special circumstances that really should be acknowledged in respect of our Town Hall and Council Chamber; especially in this very year that Crawley Borough Council - the applicant- has been encouraging us all to celebrate the 70th year of the designation as a New Town.

The Town Hall is the best and most valuable active symbol we have of our New Town heritage. The Town Hall and council chamber does have architectural merit that given time, will continue to appreciate in heritage and cultural value.

With the passage of time it would almost certainly become a candidate for listing due to both its place in the town, and, I think, as the best if not the only remaining example of a purpose built town hall of the London post-war new town era that has not been rebuilt into bland commercial development.

The Crawley 2029 Local Plan makes copious reference to policies designed to protect our heritage: “Crawley the place...Crawley will strive to be distinctive from other towns in West Sussex...leisure and cultural offer...planning principles are identified in the NPPF to ...conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance...The rich heritage which has shaped what the town is today will be respected, protected and enhanced...Policy SD1...Respects the heritage of the borough...Heritage...4.11...

“There is, however, increasing recognition of the value of some of the “New Town” buildings that have been built since 1947.

“Many of these assets are locally distinctive and, therefore, it is of importance to have a clear approach for enhancing and protecting them...Policy CH2...to respond to and reinforce locally distinctive patterns of development and landscape character and protect and/or enhance heritage assets...

“Applications must include information that demonstrates that these principles would be achieved, or not compromised, through the proposed development...4.19...to be of high quality and to protect and enhance the distinctive character and important cultural heritage of the town. Existing assets and their settings should be preserved and where possible enhanced...etc...etc.”

The Planning Statement in support of the application, whilst conspicuously omitting any reference to heritage, at least acknowledges that ‘...The Town Hall was constructed in the 1960s and its design and architectural approach reflected the early modernist buildings that define Crawley’s New Town Character...’

The Design and Access Statement, however, seeks to dismiss the existing Town Hall and Council Chamber in one short paragraph as ‘...built in the ‘brutalist’ style...’

It should be highlighted though, that out of all the ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ comments reported on page 7 of the Consultation Report, far and away the most frequently raised comment (x21) is that the proposed town hall building ...design is bland, boring, unattractive / uninspiring.’

Please do not permit this application.

John Cooban, Three Bridges