New windows to be installed at March Town Hall despite officers warning of 'substantial harm' in conservation area
Windows at March Town Hall will be replaced with double-glazing despite conservation officers urging refusal fearing "substantial harm" to the buildings heritage.
The landmark Grade-II listed building, built in 1900 in Market Place, has been part of March Conservation Area since February 1985.
Fifteen first floor and seven ground floor windows will be repaired and replaced although conservation experts deemed it as being “contrary to national and local planning policy”.
“This non-traditional alteration would have a significant impact on the heritage of the building; which would lead to substantial harm of its character,” a report read.
Fenland councillors went against the “strong message” from conservation officers and approved the application at a meeting on Wednesday (January 30).
However, it comes as only six months ago a hair salon in Wisbech was refused to keep windows that had replaced original sash ones as they failed to get conservation area planning permission first.
Owners were left with the prospect of forking out £12,000 to replace them, despite installing them in a bid to stop an influx in crime.
At the time, FDC planning committee said that, if approved, the application would have sent out “completely the wrong message” to other businesses.
But in this instance, planners decided that replacement windows at March Town Hall would “overcome a lot of problems experienced with the current windows”.
They claim they are cracked and draughty and could lead to rooms not being used.
But conservation officers warned that it was only a “subjective view” that that rooms would fall into disuse.
An executive summary from officers continues: “The reasons given for wanting to have double glazed units is insufficient to outweigh the impact that this would have on the qualities of the building.
“The materials used in the fabric of a building are considered significant as they contribute to the heritage value of the building overall.
“Alternative measures that would be less harmful to the building to secure positive enhancements in terms of draught and noise reduction have been put to the applicants.
“To allow the use of double glazing in this building without appropriate and robust justification would undermine the local planning authority’s position.
“It will result in harm to our heritage assets.
“Historic windows and doors make a major contribution to the significance and character of historic buildings and areas so every effort should be made to retain them rather than replace them.”
March Town Council has been looking to replace the windows at the Town Hall since 2015.
The current windows were installed in the 1970s.
They will be replaced with double-glazed like-for-like soft wood timber windows and five internal secondary glazing units at ground floor level.
A similar application by March Civic Trust was withdrawn last July and external alterations last took place at the site in 2003.