The riverside at Castlefields

The riverside at Castlefields

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Great letter about The Stew


I have just read your piece in this week’s Chronicle and wish to say ‘thank you’ for supporting this building and this part of the Shrewsbury Conservation Area. If Members agree to this proposal I don’t see much point in having a conservation area. The conservation area protection is there for exactly this type of building ie one which is of architectural and historical interest locally but remains unlisted. Some ‘old’ buildings are worthy candidates to allow new buildings to continue the evolution of the character of an area. Atlas Foundry may have been one of them but here a real opportunity was missed for a landmark modern building of real quality for the 21st century and beyond. Instead what did they select as their inspiration – The Stew and its ilk. What do some people want to do now? Knock down the Stew. Then the only connection we will have of the previous use of the area as a river port will be the pastiche that is the old Guildhall.  How can that make sense?

I have been involved with this building since surveying it together with The Maltings for Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council in 2006. We found then that the building is very sound, robustly built even and the roof structure is something to marvel at. It would be akin to a crime to lose the opportunity to repair; reinstate and re-use this building for another 300 years. In those next 300 years, townspeople and visitors alike will thank us for the efforts we made now to save this building. They will hopefully cherish it as we do dozens of other more cuddly and friendly buildings like Abbots’ House or Rowley’s Mansion. They are residential buildings but there are few if any industrial buildings left in the town to indicate that at one time work and residence were side by side. There is an old workshop at the back of Abbots’ House which gives a hint of the work that would have gone on once upon a time within the town itself but that is a rare survival.

In Frankwell, in a very prominent position so it cannot be missed, sits one of the few industrial style buildings still within the town centre (albeit Frankwell wasn’t always regarded as being part of the centre but it is now) – as the Italians say part of the ‘centro storico’ the historic centre.  If it can be seen in that context, part of the fabric that makes up a historic core to a modern town or city, why would anyone wish to demolish a solidly constructed building so full of character and suggestive of past times? Profit. That is what is at the heart of this. Certainly not philanthropy. A desire to build a hotel, restaurant and spa close to the town centre and this happened to be on the market.

Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council had a part to play in this. They sold the property for ‘best value’ but was it? They were marketing the property not as a demolition site but for repair and re-use for a variety of alternative uses. However, they knew that the buyer’s intention was to demolish this building.  The also knew that a sum of £450,000 had been offered which they must have known was far more than the building could possibly be worth for repair and reuse.

In Officer’s report to Cabinet on 25th October 2004.

The property has been marketed as a repairable building. It has never been marketed as a site for redevelopment. The planning department have stressed that should the building be demolished it would only be after conclusive evidence has been provided that demonstrates that the refurbishment of the existing structure was economically unviable. They have also stressed that any building built replacing the existing would be required to be of a similar "warehouse" style and a similar mass to the old building. Mr Leese is likely to pursue a planning application that involves the demolition of the building, but it has not yet been established that the building is beyond economic repair.

They also pointed at to Cabinet that:

The purchasers are taking all the rIsk that their proposed design for the “boutique hotel" will be successful with its planning application,

Well, why should Members now be put under pressure to allow demolition simply because the Applicant bought the site at risk and since then has neglected it’s condition and so now they see demolition as the only way to tidy up this site?


 Peter Napier BA(Hons) FRICS IHBC
RICS Building Conservation Accredited
Chartered Building Surveyor