Environmental groups have expressed dismay that a listed Regency townhouse will be demolished in Le Masurier’s proposed new £70m development in the north of St. Helier.
The house at 92 Bath Street is partly concealed by modern additions but dates from 1832 and is described on the listings register as “a fine example of an 1830s town house [which] illustrates the development of the town and architectural fashion in St. Helier”.
Chairman of Save Jersey’s Heritage, Marcus Binney said that the building belonged to a particularly significant period in the island’s architectural development. “Two hundred years ago was an age of elegance not just for Jersey but for the whole of the Channel Islands, including Guernsey which is very well looked after. We must make an effort here with what we have left - it would be just terrible if it was lost,” he said.
He said that two projects for which Save Jersey’s Heritage is particularly known – the conversion of the Hue Street cottages and the restoration of the Pitt Street buildings which adjoin St. Helier’s first Premier Inn – could provide the inspiration for a similar approach in Bath Street.
He said that Save Jersey’s Heritage would be prepared to look at the building with the National Trust for Jersey and that he was confident that it could be restored sympathetically to provide holiday accommodation or other potential uses.
Pictured: Planning says the building is a 'fine example of an 1830s house [that] illustrates the development of the town and architectural fashion in St. Helier in the early 19th century' (Google Maps).
However, Brian McCarthy, Managing Director of Le Masurier, said that they had already undertaken a considerable amount of work to try to accommodate the building in the plans which are expected to be submitted formally to the Planning Department in the near future.
However, he said that retaining the building would involve a significant loss of beds in the hotel development which would, in turn, risk Premier Inn ‘walking away’ from the project.
“We have been sympathetic to it but it just isn’t viable to include it,” he said, adding that the entire £70m investment in the north St. Helier project could be compromised.
Pictured: The potential £70million investment aims to breathe new life into two acres of land in the North of town that have fallen into disrepair.
Le Masurier have yet to submit a formal planning application but illustrations already released show that the listed building, which makes the corner of Bath Street and the private road running in front of the former Odeon cinema entrance, would be demolished to accommodate the new Premier Inn.
Mr McCarthy explained that Premier Inn wished to site the entrance to the hotel on the corner which is occupied by 92 Bath Street, the most favourable location from which to enter the hotel.
Pictured: Save Jersey's Heritage believe the conversion of the Hue Street cottages and the restoration of the Pitt Street buildings which adjoin St Helier’s first Premier Inn could provide the inspiration for a similar approach in Bath Street.
Charles Alluto, Chief Executive of the National Trust for Jersey, said that although the matter had not been formally discussed by the Trust, the loss of any historical building would be of concern. He added that he had been surprised to see that, since the building was listed, it had not been included in the proposed redevelopment.
“In all honesty, the Premier Inn shown could come from any area all over the UK. It would be a missed opportunity and one would hope that it would occur to Premier Inn to come up with something which reflects the place more strongly,” Mr Alluto said.
Listed buildings are not automatically protected under the Planning Law but a listing puts the onus on developers to demonstrate why a building cannot be retained and it imposes a presumption against its demolition.
Kevin Pilley, Director of Planning Policy for the States, said that in such a case a developer would be obliged to provide a justification to support the overriding of the presumption in favour of retaining a listed building and he noted that the department’s approach had been reiterated in the Supplementary Planning guidance relating to the site.
The Planning Department’s listing of 92 Bath Street notes that while additions to the building made in the twentieth century are of no value, a significant quantity of original features remaining, including Empire style decoration, ‘Venetian’ windows, original joinery and bedroom fireplaces. “The interior has a substantial survival of high quality features,” the report notes.
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