PLACARD-WAVING residents from Great Baddow packed out Chelmsford Council’s chamber on Tuesday, to show their opposition to a re-development planned for the Vineyards neighbourhood area in the centre of the village.
Council officers had recommended approval of the demolition of a vacant six-storey office block, Marrable House, to be replaced by a similar size building, along with a second, linked, three-storey building fronting Maldon Road.
It would provide 60 extra care flats for the frail and elderly.
But around 200 people flooded into the meeting, mainly objecting to the new building that would be in Maldon Road.
Chris Shaw, chairman of the parish council, said it was the most important planning application in Great Baddow for some time.
He added: “We have no problem with a replacement, but object most strongly to the three-storey building in Maldon Road. The high rise of Marrable House is away from the existing historic buildings, but this will not be the case with the building in Maldon Road.”
Trevor Miller (Lib Dem, Great Baddow East) also told the meeting the new building would “overpower and overshadow the listed buildings on the opposite side of Maldon Road”.
Speaker after speaker in the two hour debate said the flat-roofed buildings proposed added nothing to the area.
They accepted Marrable House, described as “one of the worst examples of town and country planning in the country” at the time it was built in the 1960s, had to be replaced, but felt the proposed replacement was not of the right design.
Former Chelmsford mayor, 95- year-old Jean Roberts, was applauded when she said: “I would happily see Marrable House demolished, but not replaced with what is proposed.
“The council has a statutory duty to enhance the conservation area and this is at odds with listed buildings nearby. It is an ugly building.”
Architect Robin Crane and Paul Richards, managing director of the applicant company Murano, spoke in favour of the development.
Mr Crane said it was a difficult site to work with, but told the meeting “good contemporary architecture does have a place” in Great Baddow. He added: “There is a prudent demand for extra care facilities in Chelmford.”
Mr Richards said his company had already invested £3million in the Vineyards over 12 years.
He said: “After five years of negotiation we have ended up with such a scheme, a contemporary approach, approved by English Heritage.”
But councillors voted overwhelmingly to refuse the scheme.
Chris Rycroft (Lib Dem, Great Baddow East) said the design was “terrible”.
He added: “It has a flat roof and doesn’t blend in with the conservation area. It is out of keeping with the centre of the village.”