They don’t take long these Colchester Borough Council planners in putting up applications for the esteemed members of the Planning Committee to consider – especially so when the applicant is CBC itself.
Yep – the conversion of the old Police Station along Queen Street into a Cultural Hub [URGH] is on the agenda when the Planning Committee next meets at the Town Hall on 14th February.
We’ll be sending our love, etc.
This is a key application sitting at the heart of the Cultural Quarter [stop sniggering] in Colchester. firstsite alone can’t bring about the transition at St Botolph’s. The top down project has impressed, but it now needs a junior partner in a messy creative space.
Under the paving stone, the beach.
Or even the Colchester Cultural Hub.
Which isn’t quite how the Committee papers describe Application No: 122272:
“Alterations, demolitions and repairs to existing building, including change of use to creative business centre and cafe.”
Which basically means creative studio space and a place in which to purchase your ethically sourced organic Special Brew, in-between bouts of being creative.
Cut to the chase and the report from the Planning Officer recommends:
“Conditional Approval subject to no objections being raised.”
Please speak now, etc.
“These applications are referred to the Planning Committee because the Council is the applicant.”
Turkeys, Christmas etc Comrades.
The proud history of the 18th Century building are detailed, with the timeline running from a Soldier’s Institution, conversion to a Police Station in 1940 and then… the Chicago Rock Cafe.
If these walls could talk, etc.
But history will have little relevance when it comes to deciding if 37 Queen Street is ready to become part of the Cultural Project:
“The key issues explored below are: first: whether the proposed change of use of this building to a ‘creative business centre’ is an acceptable use in this part of the town centre.”
One would hope so, seeing as though our friends from CBC have long since stick a drawing pin in St Botolph’s and attempted to re-brand it as the Colchester Cultural Quarter.
“Secondly: whether the proposed alteration works would safeguard the special interest of this Grade II listed building together with preserving / enhancing the character and appearance of this part of the Town Centre Conservation Area.”
And here’s where you can see the slight contradiction: a Cultural Quarter in a Conservation Area.
“St Botolphs is in the process of transformation. Colchester new arts centre, Firstsite, has recently opened, and 15 Queen Street has become an important cultural hub. The former bus station and St James House and Roman House are proposed for redevelopment.”
Build it and they will come, as those visitor numbers for firstsite seem to indicate.
We’ve blogged before about the background to the application.
As a reminder:
“The centre will provide space for hot-desking, start- up companies, social enterprises, business incubation, grow-on space and SME anchor tenants. Exhibition and showcase spaces, meeting spaces and a café are also to be provided.”
All very well.
Our FAVE comment however remains:
It’s all very well for the space to be handed over to the creative sector, but it’s what you do with your tools that count, Comrades.
One artist’s creativity is another bean counter’s hyperlocal economy, dahhhling:
“The current scheme to re-use 37 Queen Street for business use with the projected creation of 80 jobs accords with the aforementioned national and local planning policies.”
Make no mistake – CBC sees the Cultural Quarter as a kick start for the Colchester economy, and not as a vanity project in Colchester producing yet more paintings and the like.
A few minor (some may argue MAJOR) points include the provision of 20 bicycle parking places and no parking space for customers.
The report concludes with the Conditional Recommendation remark, with a number of stipulations attached. Interestingly this includes “sustainability.”
How the chuffers do you build that into an empirical planning applications?
Sounds a little… arty.
Overalls and easels at the ready Comrades for Valentine’s Day at the Town Hall at 6pm.
Like all good collisions between art and the Establishment, it could get a little messy.