Demolition of landmark Westgate B&B refused

By Maria pepper

Published 27/08/2016 | 00:00

Westgate B&B which An Taisce objected to being knocked down because of the building's architectural heritage and proximity to the old Town Wall.
Westgate B&B which An Taisce objected to being knocked down because of the building's architectural heritage and proximity to the old Town Wall.

Wexford County Council has refused planning permission to a Wexford couple to knock down an early 19th century townhouse known as Westgate B&B after An Taisce objected on the grounds of architectural heritage and the building's proximity to the Old Town Wall.

Owners Tony and Breda applied to the planning department in early June for permission to demolish the structure for safety reasons but the local authority has rejected the move because it would have 'a detrimental impact on the streetscape and the architectural character of the area'.

Planners noted that an upstanding section of the Old Town Wall is located at the rear of the building and said it had not been shown how the wall would be affected or protected during demolition works.

They cited a policy in the Wexford Town Walls Conservation Plan stating that there should be no further demolition of 19th century or earlier properties and that building against, overlooking or opening onto the Town Wall should not be permitted unless there is a compelling case to show that the outcome will be of ultimate benefit of the Town Walls.

The Conservation Plan further stated that 'in certain areas buildings have been constructed adjacent to the town walls and where these buildings have an intrinsic quality and are important in their own right they should be retained.'

The planning report described Westgate B&B as 'a fine building which occupies a prominent corner site in the town centre and makes a positive contribution to the streetscape.'

'As no plans have been outlined for the future development of the site it is considered that the proposed demolition would result in a vacant brownfield site which would have a detrimental impact on the streetscape and the visual amenity of this town centre area.'

The Wrights proposed to demolish the building and to finish the area with gravel and a new boundary wall to match an existing wall. It was intended to provide suitable support and weathering to the neighbouring property. The applicants did not outline the future use of the site.

They couple have a current planning application on the adjoining property, the former Westgate Tavern, for change of use of the ground floor from a public house to office use.

Meanwhile Breda Wright was granted permission in 2013 for change of use of an adjoining ground floor retail unit to wholesale storage.

The applicants submitted a structural report outlining the deterioration of Westgate B&B and emphasising that the rear annexe had subsided. Deterioration to the main building includes dry rot and the first floor beam has collapsed. It was stated that the building's conversion to a new use would require substantial structural modifications.

Wexford County Council referred the Westgate application to a number of agencies for comment or recommendation including the Heritage Council, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and An Taisce.

An Taisce issued a report recommending that the local authority refuse permission for the demolition.

The conservation trust said that while the building was not recorded as a listed structure for County Wexford, it is included in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage NIAH),

It has a regional rating for structures or sites that make a significant contribution to the architectural heritage within a region or area with its categories of special interest being architectural, historical and social.

The NIAH description dates the house back to c.1825 and says it was extensively renovated pre-1993 to accommodate use as a guesthouse.

'A well-composed house of the middle size built as the townhouse of the De Rinzy family of Clobemon Hall, but at a later point accommodating two separate houses occuping a prominent position on a corner site at the meeting of Westgate with Slaney Street, thereby making a strong visual impression in the local streetscape,' the report continued.

An Taisce noted the presence of the old Town Hall at the rear of the building and said it is possible that masonry walls and cobbled surfaces evident in the basement of the West Gate Tavern are associated with the Town Wall.

Commenting that a build heritage assessment should have been carried out, An Taisce said it considered the demolition of a building listed on the NIAH in such a strategic location to be 'inappropriate'.

'Wexford County Council should encourage the re-use of centrally-located vacant buildings rather than demolish these structure,' it said.

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