Civic Society calls for changes to Peterborough development plans

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There have been calls to modify plans for a major city development after claims new buildings will not fit in with the area.

The Peterborough Civic Society have claimed the plans to transform Whitworth Mill into an arts centre, and build a new 160 room hotel in the Fletton Quays development would be out of character with the neighbourhood - and called for the current planning application to be rejected.

However, councillor Peter Hiller, Peterborough City Council cabinet member for growth, planning, housing and economic development, said the plans were vital for the growth of the development and the city.

Ken Mehmed, from the Civic Society, said: “The Civic Society fully supports the principle of both these proposals but has serious reservations about some aspects of the detailed designs which are of vital importance to the impact these buildings will make to the image of the city.”

He said problems with the plans for Whitworth Mill involved The lobby/stairwell extension on the west side of the building.

He said: “It is this west elevation, with its twin pediments which establishes the image and architectural character of the mill. It is vitally important to maintain this character. The western approach is and will continue to be the most important one for visitors to the Arts Centre whether they come by foot, cycle or car. It will form the first and lasting impression in visitors’ minds. The proposed stairwell pod is very dominant and will project above the pediments from ground level viewpoints.

“The twin gable silhouette will be lost, to be replaced by a plain vertically ribbed metal clad tower.”

Mr Mehmed also said the design of the new Hilton Hotel would lead to ‘a massive lump of a building.’

He said; “It creates a massive lump of a building with very bulky appearance especially when viewed from the north side of the river. In fact the visual impression from all angles is one of overbearing bulk. This is at odds with the architectural form and character of the river frontage being created, where the four apartment blocks, placed at right angles to the river and evenly spaced apart have been designed to create a regular rhythm in the built-form.”

But Cllr Hiller said the council had to take more into account than just the looks of the buildings. He said: “Whilst we fully respect the Civic Society’s views, we have to look at the site not only with an aesthetic view, but also from a commercial point of view. In reality, if we had adhered to the Civic Society recommendations about Fletton Quays it probably would never have been built.
“We are trying to make this a success - we have to look at it through different eyes and with a different approach to others.”

Howard Bright, Principal Development Manager at Peterborough Investment Partnership, said: “In designing each element of the Fletton Quays development, the architects have taken into account other buildings on site and in the surrounding area to ensure a cohesiveness of design between the old and the new. We’ve selected materials on the building facades and added aesthetic touches in the public realm to help achieve this.

“Our aim has always been that the scheme makes a positive contribution to the local community.

“As part of the process for applying for outline planning permission, the illustrative drawings included set out broad parameters for design and didn’t specify how the buildings would look.

“The full planning application for the hotel was submitted by the developer last month and comments are invited as part of this consultation process. These will be taken into account by planning officers in making the decision on the application.”