Oliver Buildings: ‘We’re closer to a solution’
PUBLISHED: 17:00 30 August 2016 | UPDATED: 08:23 31 August 2016
More details emerge about ideas for Oliver Buildings as Historic England amends listing and developers reject 100k bid to buy historic Barnstaple buildings
More details have emerged this week about the fate of Barnstaple’s historic Oliver Buildings.
Developers of the Anchorwood site say they are closer to finding a solution for the Grade II-listed buildings – the former Shapland and Petter factory – and that the project will be delivered on time.
Also this week, the Gazette can reveal that Historic England has amended the listing following a second appeal by Wessex Investors.
Meanwhile, a bid by the Barnstaple Buildings Preservation Trust to buy the buildings for £100,000 has been rejected.
A mixed use development
Wessex managing director Andrew Pegg said plans for the building were still an ‘ongoing process’ but a project enquiry report seen by the Gazette outlines a basic concept for a mixed use development.
The report, submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), suggests the northern river facing units could be converted into retirement housing with restaurants and bars on the ground floor.
The southern block could provide an ‘interpretation facility’ to tell the story of Shapland and Petter. Space could also be created for creative and digital industries, as well as a restaurant area.
Mr Pegg wouldn’t be drawn on the details but did say: “We are closer to finding a solution but everybody needs to be patient.
“This is not a small scale development – it’s a serious project and is of heightened importance because of the relationship of this part of the site with the rest of Anchorwood Bank and with the town centre.
“It has to be right and, very importantly, whatever we do will have to stand the test of time both economically and architecturally.
“The overall timing of this project is that this area will be completed in time for the opening of the final phase of North Devon Homes’ housing.”
Mr Pegg said the HLF had responded positively to the project enquiry and a subsequent meeting had been ‘constructive’.
“However, it was made clear that this scale of development will be competing for funds at a national level which is challenging,” he said.
Mr Pegg said a round one bid for HLF Enterprise funding ‘may very well form part of the strategy’.
“It’s part of the current appraisal process and if we do apply it will be winter 2016/17,” he said.
“It is important to note that even if a bid is successful, any grant will not come close to the funds likely to be required to regenerate the buildings.”
The buildings, originally listed in August last year, will remain Grade II, but following a full inspection by Historic England, a single storey link building, flat-roofed extension and some internal partitioning and suspended ceilings have been excluded.
Mr Pegg said: “The amendment is useful and demonstrates that Historic England has gained a greater understanding of the situation.
“The next step will be detailed consultation with Historic England on our proposals throughout the design process.”
And talking about Barnstaple Building Preservation Trust’s (BBPT) £100,000 offer to buy the buildings, he said: “The offer from the BBPT was made with the best intentions and it was politely declined with our rationale provided.
“We will be delivering this project ourselves for obvious reasons. We also owe a duty to both North Devon Homes and to the town of Barnstaple to ensure that this final stage of what is a very long journey is delivered properly and that it provides a fitting gateway to what is one of the most important regeneration projects in the South West.
“There are many parties with a very keen interest in what happens to the Oliver Buildings. I reiterate that it is going to need patience.
“We have spent the last seven years laboriously, meticulously and expensively assembling this regeneration from concept to where we are now.
“We are not going do half a job when we get to the finale.”