Sunday, 4 March 2012

Holy Trinity, Ballycastle, and the Pursuit of Ugliness

Heritage protection requires eternal vigilence

The 'aircraft hangar' from 2009 was eventually reduced in size to a much more modest scale.

Parishioners were very annoyed in 2009 when they heard of the proposal to 'decommission' the Parish Church of St James on the outskirts of Ballycastle.

Plans have been recently submitted for the erection of another large edifice between Holy Trinity and the Co-Op. The following letter of objection has been posted on the Planning Service website:

Dear Sir,                                                                                         , 

I wish to object to this new planning application relating to Holy Trinity Cottage, immediately adjacent to the Grade A Listed Holy Trinity Church in the Diamond, Ballycastle. 

In March 2011, following lengthy, detailed discussions between the applicant, their architects, Planning Service and NIEA, permission was granted for new facilities adjacent to this important church, which lies at the heart of the Ballycastle Conservation Area and is the dominant feature on the main visitor route into the town. 

The agreed proposal (E/2009/0180/F) included a substantial new parochial hall to the rear of the church.   Other facilities were to be located in a modest, carefully detailed and proportioned building immediately to the south, which was both subservient to, and respectful of, the neighbouring church. 

The proposed new two-storey building (E/2012/0020/F) is neither respectful  of nor proportionate to the fine church, and effectively  removes the sense of unity and cohesion between the church and its ancillary buildings to the side and rear created by E/2009/0180/F. The requested increase in height will result in the building being an even more dominant feature than the approved new hall to the rear of the church, its roof-line in fact reaching the base of the church tower. Its proposed fenestration is ugly and ill-considered in the extreme, and totally unrelated to or respectful  of the fine set of windows along the south aisle of the church. Furthermore, the proposed windows are to be of aluminium, whereas E/2009/0180/F stipulated timber-framed ones. The carefully detailed and attractive stone entrance agreed under E/2009/0180/F is totally absent, and has been replaced by a plain, glazed one of no architectural merit or distinction. The most easterly section of the building is now to be of plain not ashlar render. E/2012/0020/F is thus a retrogressive and inferior substitution for the agreed scheme. 

 I would respectfully ask you to refuse application E/2012/0020/F on the grounds that the proposed new building would detract from the landscape and architectural value of the the Conservation Area as it does not meet all the criteria set out in PPS6 Policy BH12, and contravenes PPS6 policy BH1 in that : 

the detailed design does not respect the Listed Building in terms of scale, height and massing, 

the works proposed do not make use of traditional or sympathetic building materials."

The Planning Service labels the building Trinity College, Station Road whereas it is Trinity Cottage, Station Street.

I've been sent a copy of a second objection; it will appear on the Planning Service website later:

"Dear Sir,

I am writing to raise objections to the above application. 

The development proposals which were approved previously were an acceptable compromise, despite enclosing the church to the south and east. The previous proposal did at least leave a reasonable open view of the church from the south.

The newly proposed building is, in my opinion too tall for the site and will overshadow Holy Trinity church. 

Architecturally it is more representative of a 1960s factory or office block. The stone parapet fails as an architectural link with the beautiful Georgian church. Put simply, there is nothing of architectural merit in these proposals.

Furthermore I believe that this application, when combined with part of the previous approval, is excessive overdevelopment of a very small site, sitting as it does, alongside the public thoroughfare of Station Street. 

I would also question the adequacy of the provision of on-site private parking space."

Er, Holy Trinity Cottage is in the heart of the 

The intention is to demolish the single-storey Holy Trinity Cottage 
and replace it  with a two-storey building on a larger footprint. The 
new building  would be higher than the two-storey building by the 
church gate and the planned new hall.

View from Co-Op

"I see that it is proposed to remove a considerable section of the churchyard wall.

Not only do I think this is unnecessary, but I would like to point out to you that this wall is all that remains above ground of a number of fortifications which stood on this site. We know of at least two MacDonnell castles.

This section of wall should not be removed. It is of considerable archaeological interest and any removal should be from necessity and undertaken by a team of archaeologists.

Great efforts are being made to improve awareness of Ballycastle's heritage both locally and nationally. The NITB have taken steps to promote our heritage with an emphasis on future archaeological discoveries.

Ballycastle's Cultural and Economic future is dependant on the way we present our culture and heritage to overseas guests. It is essential therefore that every aspect of our heritage is protected.

Within the last few years I have had the privilege of showing a team of archaeologists from the NIEA and the University of Ulster around Ballycastle. I showed them the remains of a Tower House to the rear of the Georgian Courthouse on Castle Street, one remaining wall of a military block house in Clare Street, the excavated 1metre wide wall in the Diamond, (with an adjacent well dated 1450), and this castle yard wall.

Their conclusion was that all these structures dated from a period prior to 1620 and warranted further investigation, as they believe that together they establish that Ballycastle was one of the five Civic Towns established by the Earl of Antrim in the early C17th. The others were Dunluce, Ballymoney, Clough and Glenarm.

There is little doubt in my mind that when funds are available for archaeological investigation, that the mound upon which the churchyard stands will be found to be a Norman Motte which itself may well be sited on a Celtic Dun."

NIEA Ref:       HB 05/14/001

Date Consulted:      16/02/2012
Date of Response:  09/03/2012

The revised proposal has been assessed by a NIEA Historic Buildings Unit. The opinion is that the increase in ridge height above what was  earlier agreed is excessive and the proposed alteration should not be approved.

Issued on behalf of 
NIEA: Historic Buildings Unit

NIEA: HMU ref.:  SM11/1 ANT 08:135
Date:   08.03.12

Please refer also to our previous comments respect of application E/2009/0180/F, issued from this office on 18.01.11.

NIEA: Historic Monuments Unit notes the amended plans for this proposal.  Further to our previous responses and email correspondence, NIEA: HMU advises that any approval for this proposal must be conditional on the agreement and implementation of a developer-funded programme of archaeological works, to identify and record any archaeological remains in advance of new construction, or provide for their preservation in situ, as per PPS 6 Policy BH 4.  The attached conditions would be appropriate in this case (L15 & L05A).

Please ensure that advice / conditions** are attached to any approval decision.

Issued on behalf of
NIEA: Historic Monuments Unit

** These are of no value unless they are enforced!

Letters of support or objection should have arrived at Planning Service by March 7.