Planning Application for a new two-storey rear extension receives approval the Ironbridge Unesco World Heritage Site.
Following an initial consultation with the client En-Plan: Planing & Architecture formulated and submitted a planning application to Telford & Wrekin Council for a two-storey rear extension in the Ironbridge Gorge Unesco World Heritage Site. Tghe appliocant alsio required an off road parking space and an electric verhicle charging point. The plannning criteria fo rsuch a development in such a sensitive location is extremely high. To underdtand why this is the case it is useful to understand the site and its history.
History of Ironbridge
Ironbridge is a settlement on the River Severn in Shropshire, England. It derives its name from the famous Iron Bridge that spans the river, a structure that holds significant historical importance. The area around Ironbridge has evidence of human activity dating back to Roman times. However, it started to gain prominence during the Industrial Revolution. The actual Iron Bridge, from which the town takes its name, was completed in 1779. It was the world's first major bridge made of cast iron. Abraham Darby III, part of the famous Darby family of ironmasters, commissioned its construction. The design was by Thomas Farnolls Pritchard, an architect, and the bridge showcased the capabilities of iron as a building material. Prior to this, bridges were commonly made from stone, wood, or brick. The Iron Bridge demonstrated a revolutionary use of the material and symbolized the technological advancements of the Industrial Revolution. The wider Ironbridge Gorge area was a major center of the early Industrial Revolution. The presence of coal, iron ore, limestone, and clay made it an ideal location for various industries. The Darby family, in particular, played a pivotal role in pioneering new techniques in iron production. In 1986, the Ironbridge Gorge was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its unique contribution to the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, which had a profound influence on the world. Nowadays, Ironbridge is often described as the "Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution." It has become a major tourist destination, attracting visitors to its museums, historical sites, and, of course, the iconic bridge itself. The Ironbridge Gorge Museums are a collection of museums that celebrate the history of the area, including the Blists Hill Victorian Town, the Coalport China Museum, and the Museum of The Gorge. Over time, the Iron Bridge underwent several restoration projects to preserve its structure and historical significance. This includes addressing issues related to aging, environmental factors, and the wear and tear from centuries of use.
The history of Ironbridge is a testament to the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of the early Industrial Revolution in Britain, and it serves as a tangible reminder of the advancements that laid the foundations for modern industrial society.
What are Unesco World Heritage Sites and how are they designated?
UNESCO World Heritage Sites are landmarks or areas with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). These sites are recognized for their cultural, historical, scientific, or other forms of significance.
Here's a breakdown of what they are and how they're designated:
Types of World Heritage Sites:
Cultural Heritage Sites: These can include monuments, groups of buildings, and sites with historical, aesthetic, archaeological, scientific, ethnological, or anthropological value.
Natural Heritage Sites: These are natural features consisting of physical and biological formations, geological and physiographical formations, and precisely delineated areas that constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants.
Mixed Heritage Sites: Sites that are significant both naturally and culturally.
Tentative List: A country must first list its historically or culturally significant sites on a "Tentative List". This list is essentially a preliminary inventory of those properties which a country considers to be cultural and/or natural heritage of outstanding universal value and which it intends to consider for nomination during the following years.
Nomination File: After placing a site on the Tentative List, the country can then prepare a nomination file, which is submitted to the World Heritage Centre. The nomination files must be carefully prepared, as they are the basis for evaluating the site's worthiness.
Evaluation by Advisory Bodies: After receiving the nomination, the World Heritage Committee uses two advisory bodies to evaluate the site:
For cultural sites: The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)
For natural sites: The World Conservation Union (IUCN)
Inscription: After the evaluation, the World Heritage Committee makes the final decision on the site's inscription during its annual session. If the site is approved, it is then added to the World Heritage List.
Criteria for Selection: For a site to be included on the World Heritage List, it must meet at least one out of the ten criteria defined by UNESCO. These criteria encompass cultural significance (like representing a masterpiece of human creative genius) and natural significance (like containing superlative natural phenomena).
Protection and Conservation: Being designated as a World Heritage Site brings a commitment on the part of the country to protect and conserve the site, especially from threats like development, war, and natural disasters. There's also a possibility of funding from the World Heritage Fund for preservation activities.
Endangered Sites: If a site is found not to be properly managed or under potential threat, it can be listed as "World Heritage in Danger". This is a way to attract international attention and support for threatened sites.
The designation of World Heritage Sites is not just about recognizing the outstanding value of a site but also promoting international collaboration to preserve the world's heritage for future generations.
Why is the Ironbridge Gorge a Wolrld Heritage Site?
The Ironbridge Gorge was one of the first UK World Heritage Sites to be inscribed by UNESCO, in 1986, as a ‘cultural’ site. It is important on a worldwide basis as a symbol of the Industrial Revolution. At Coalbrookdale the blast furnace of 1709 is a reminder of the discovery of coke; whilst the iconic bridge over
the Severn Gorge was the world’s first bridge constructed of iron and had considerable influence on developments in the fields of technology and architecture. But it is the totality of all the elements that contributed to the rapid development of an important industrial region in the 18th century that make
it particularly important: mines, railway lines, key industrial structures and the many historic buildings of an industrial community.
Today, the site is a living, working community with a population of approximately 4000 people as well as a world renowned place to visit. It is also a historic landscape that is interpreted and made accessible through the work of a number of organisations, in particular, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (established in 1967 to preserve and interpret the remains of the Industrial Revolution within the Ironbridge Gorge) and the Severn Gorge Countryside Trust (established in 1991 to manage the woodland, grassland and associated historic structures in the Gorge).
Within the property, five features are highlighted as of particular interest. It was in Coalbrookdale in 1709 that the Quaker Abraham Darby I developed the production technique of smelting iron with coke which began the great 18th century iron revolution. There still remains a high concentration of 18th and 19th century dwellings, warehouses and public buildings in Coalbrookdale. In Ironbridge, the community draws its name from the famous Iron Bridge erected in 1779 by Abraham Darby III. At the eastern end of Ironbridge stand the remains of two 18th century blast furnaces, the Bedlam Furnaces, built in 1757. In Hay Brook Valley, south of Madeley, lies a large open-air museum which incorporates the remains of the former Blists Hill blast furnaces and Blists Hill brick and tile works. Also of importance is the spectacular Hay Inclined Plane, which connected the Shropshire Canal to the Coalport Canal, which in turn linked with the River Severn. The small community of Jackfield on the south bank of the River Severn was important for navigation, coal mining, clay production, and the manufacture of decorative tiles. Located at the eastern end of the property and on the north bank of the River Severn, industrialisation came to Coalport in the late 18th century and the area is remembered principally for the Coalport China Works.
The boundary of the property is clearly defined by the steep sided Gorge and encompasses an extraordinary concentration of mining zones, foundries, factories, workshops and warehouses which coexist with the old network of lanes, paths, roads, ramps, canals and railroads as well as substantial remains of traditional landscape and housing. None of the key industrial attributes are under threat, but the overall mining landscape is vulnerable to land instability resulting from mining, underlying geology and incremental changes, which over time could impact the character of the valley. The landscape is a crucial part of the property, and it needs to be managed as a coherent whole, with key views across the valley identified and protected.
The decline of the industries and the prosperity of the area at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries in a way helped to protect most of the urban fabric within the property and its landscape. The different types of dwellings, industrial buildings and structures did suffer from a degree of neglect following the decline in prosperity. However, in recognition of the area’s unique industrial heritage significant late 20th century investment reversed this decline. With careful attention to details, materials and techniques, most of the historic buildings, structures and urban and rural patterns have retained their essential and authentic historic character, although, some industrial monuments await conservation work.
Protection and management requirements
The UK Government protects World Heritage properties in England in two ways. Firstly, individual buildings, monuments, gardens and landscapes are designated under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and the 1979 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act and secondly, through the UK Spatial Planning System under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Acts. The property lies predominantly in the boundary of Telford & Wrekin Council with a small south-east portion within the Shropshire Council boundary. The entire site is a designated Conservation Area and there are over 375 listed buildings of which two are Grade 1 and eighteen are Grade 2*. In addition, there are 7 Scheduled Ancient Monuments. There are two Sites of Special Scientific Interest within the World Heritage property.
Added control over changes to the property is achieved through an Article 4 (2) Directive for the Conservation Area, which withdraws permitted rights for certain development. Additional controls under a wider Article 4(2) Directive will be implemented in 2013 as an improved management tool to prevent damaging incremental change.
There is also a need to promote wider understanding of the scope and extent of the property and its inter-related attributes. A visitor and interpretation centre enables visitors to understand the geographical and geological context to the property and visitors are encouraged to visit the various museums and villages and to walk along the river and the slopes of the Gorge. Additional visitor facilities include upgrading visitor accommodation and a Park and Ride facility. This complements the comprehensive high quality interpretation and education service provided by the ten Ironbridge Museums and the Ironbridge Institute.
In terms of when planning permission is required the planning system is quite complex and we recommend that you check with the Planning Department to see if planning permission is required. If work is carried out without permission, you may be required to carry out expensive and time consuming reversal works.
Planning Permission within a Conservation Area: Planning permission within any conservation area is required for certain works, according to rules set at a national level. These are set out in interactive guides on the Planning Portal that cover all manner of works including extensions, outbuildings, chimneys, fences, dormer windows, satellite dishes etc. Planning Permission for unlisted houses within the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site: To ensure that further small scale works do not harm the character and appearance of the World Heritage Site, an ‘Article 4 Direction’ for the Severn Gorge Conservation Area brings other works to all ‘dwellinghouses’ under planning control, where they ‘front a highway, waterway or open space’.
It applies only to ‘dwellinghouses’, simply because planning permission is already required for most of these works for all other types of building.
The Article 4 Direction does not supersede the national rules for conservation areas, but is in addition. Planning permission is therefore also required for the following:
• Changing or adding windows (including roof lights and dormers) or doors;
• Erecting, replacing, removing or altering a boundary fence, gate or wall of any height (hedges do not need planning permission);
• Making any alteration to the roof;
• Constructing an external porch;
• Constructing, altering or replacing outbuildings (this includes all manner of structures regardless of size: sheds, greenhouses, garages, kennels, beehives, bin stores, decking, ponds, containers used for domestic heating oil or gas etc);
• Altering, erecting or removing a chimney, flue, soil or vent pipe;
• Laying a hard surface (drive or patio) in the curtilage (grounds);
• Installing solar panels or other microgeneration facilities on a house;
• Installing satellite dishes on a house or within the curtilage
(grounds) (normal domestic TV and radio aerials are not covered).
These all apply not just to the front of a house, but also any wall or roof that is visible from a highway, waterway or open space. Due to the steep valley sides and winding lanes, what may be your ‘rear elevation’, may be visible and fall under planning control. Also remember that a ‘highway’ is any public road, footpath or bridleway. Needing planning permission doesn’t mean you will not be able to make any changes to your property, but that we need to bear in mind the character and appearance of the Conservation Area and World Heritage Site as a whole, and ensure that any changes are sensitive to the area’s exceptional importance.
The Planning Appplication Process and Further Assistance
The approved planning application added an improved kitchen at ground floor with a new bedroom above. The application also gained permission for off road parking for the property complete with charging point for electric vehicles. This was extremely important to the client who was keen to make the scheme more sustainable and do whatever was in their owner to help the environment.
Following on from the planning approval En-Plan then obtained Building Regulations approval for the technical detail for the build which the informed the tendering and construction phase. As of September 2021 the project has been completed and the owner is extremely happy with the finished scheme.
Following on from the above as of March 2022 En-Plan have also secured planning permission for a detached workshop and garage at the property. WE are currently in the process of sorting out the technical build detail for this in order that the owners can secure accurate quotes for the schedule of works.
If you would like to find out more about how our Planning Consultancy and Architectural Design Services can work in perfect sync to achieve a successful outcome in the planning system please CONTACT US and we will be only too happy to talk through any questions or development proposals you may have.
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