Call to save buildings on Marconi site

First published in News

HISTORIANS have condemned housing development plans on an iconic building site in Chelmsford.

The Victorian Society has spoken out against developer Bellway Homes’ plans to knock down some of the buildings at the derelict Marconi factory premises in New Street and building 437 houses there.

The developer has not submitted a formal planning application for the ten-acre site, which opened in 1912, since buying the land in July, although early ideas have been exhibited to the public.

However, despite plans to keep the mainly Grade II listed building intact along with the water tower and power house, the society feels demolishing other parts would be wrong because of the history.

James Hughes, conservation adviser for the society, called the idea “damaging and unjustified”.

He said: “These historically significant buildings are charming and remarkably well preserved.

“The selection of buildings for demolition is incoherent and piecemeal. To demolish some and not others along the same stretch is like knocking out teeth one or two at a time.

“The developer has not even tried to justify the damage to such a historically significant street.

“There are a lot of perfectly good housing developments which have retained all the original buildings as part of a new development. It just takes a little imagination.”

Richard Burrows, managing director of Bellway Homes Essex, said preservation of parts of the site were central to the developer’s plans as it knows how important the location is to Chelmsford.

But he said it was not possible to keep everything.

He added: “We are keen to see its history cherished and preserved.

“However, we do not feel there is sufficient merit to keep all the former Marconi buildings as this would make the site uneconomic for redevelopment and the site would be left to deteriorate further.”

The site, near the city centre, was first used 100 years ago by pioneering radio engineer Guglielmo Marconi’s company.

Offices, community facilities and retail units have also been included in draft plans from Bellway Homes.

Work is being done to the main building to repair parts of the roof.

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