Development & Conservation in Highfield
What has the Titanic got to do with it?
The captain of the Titanic, Edward J. Smith (who went down with his ship in 1912) lived at Woodhead, a large house on Winn Road, adjacent to the Oakmount Triangle.
These beautiful houses in Winn Road were not protected by conservation status and so were gradually demolished and 90% have been replaced by large developments of flats such as this one:
This particular block of flats is now standing where the captain’s house once stood, and was one of the first of the many unregulated developments in Winn Road and Westwood Road.
So what has this got to do with our conservation area?
Before the Oakmount Triangle was granted conservation status, a developer purchased no 4 Leigh Road – a distinctive Arts and Crafts style house:
Its character features include the herringbone brickwork on the gable and the round window on the side, which has become part of our conservation logo.
The developers also bought the empty plot next to it and their intention was to demolish the house and build a block of flats or townhouses on the resulting large double plot.
Residents were quick to realise that the Triangle could end up like Winn Road and so we fought for conservation status. This was was granted in 2005.
So the developer was forced instead to keep no 4 intact, and build a family home on the vacant plot next door, in a style fitting with the character of the Oakmount Triangle:
How does this stop me changing my garage doors or knocking down my front wall?
The conservation status, which was further protected by an Article 4(2) direction in 2008, will stop any possible development such as we see in Winn Road or Westwood Road, however there is a small price to pay to stop the kind of development that we know can so easily happen.
We are aware times change, and conservation doesn’t mean we have to preserve everything in aspic. However it is the classic features such as the walls built by architect John Smith, with their distinctive recessed panels dentilated brick course and chamferred coving, which enhance the street scene. Such features are a part of our argument in favour of conservation status.
Even the cheaper rat-trap style have character:
However please don’t assume that we would object to, or that the City Council would refuse, any appropriate alteration. There have been cases where both we and the council have supported changes especially when they preserve or actually enhance the look. We are very happy to provide guidance.
But the total demolition of one of these original walls to create a carpark could encourage others to do the same so gradual erosion of the character of the area could lead to front gardens being replaced by hard standing car parks:
However much we may want more off-road parking, we would no doubt lose our conservation status if the character was to be eroded to such an extent.
And if we lose conservation status we could very soon end up like Winn Road:
Please support OTRA and keep the character of our friendly neighbourhood.