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 Proposed Retirement Housing in Fisherton Street

  1. The long empty site on Fisherton Street and Malthouse Lane, originally proposed for a new library plus Travelodge hotel, and then just for the hotel, is now the subject of proposals for retirement housing. Prior to a planning application going in, details of these have been sent by Churchill Retirement Living (who previously built such housing on the site of the former bus station), who asked for our comments. These can be read here:

The Civic Society regrets the creation of yet more retirement housing within the city, but accepts that in planning terms this use is likely to be acceptable. Its comments therefore relate to the proposed design and its impact.

  • ‘Stone window surrounds’. These need to be in natural stone, not artificial, and to be far in advance of those on the Endless Street elevation of Sarum Lodge. Quite apart from the unconvincing nature of the ‘stonework’, it goes without saying that the disfigurement caused by runs down the string course and upper part of the doorcase ought to be seen as quite unacceptable.


  • ‘Red brickwork window heads’. Where these occur, they need to be of a quality that fits with the neo-historic design approach. Rather than the use of ordinary bricks, all too often done with joints which are far too wide, the quality which the design would clearly like to proclaim would be achieved in this instance by the use of single unit gauged brickwork arches, which are easily available.


  • ‘Simple parapeted building eaves’. Where these occur, they would be welcomed by us, as more urban in feel than large expanses of visible roofs.


  • Shopfronts. We welcome the retail frontages at ground floor level, but  are very dubious as to how these would actually work. The heights seem to simply be too low to allow for shopfronts with fascia boards. There needs to be a genuine commitment to the retail element, to offset the lack of any addition of vitality to the street stemming from residential use above, and the scheme seems to run the danger of being open to future extension of such use to the ground floor, if the shops are provided in a way which makes commercial vitality doubtful.


  • Flexibility. We would prefer to see a design which incorporated the possibility of future changes, ideally using a ‘looser fit’ site plan so that any age group or type of living in the city could be accommodated.  Perhaps a terrace housing type, with space designed in for more circulation cores and spots on the elevations for access doors to allow subdivision or conversion vertically or laterally.


  • River access. The provision of this on the eastern edge of the site is welcome, but given the current fairly unappealing character of the river at this point, a great deal of work would need to be done to make this feature successful.

The previously approved library plus hotel scheme was based on a very adventurous design, though its practical execution to the standards it needed could have been problematic. The Society always welcomes interesting new designs, but finds the one now proposed bland and timid, being yet another exercise in neo-historic stylings when the site would lend itself well to something much bolder and more contemporary. Considering the information provided, and bearing in mind the outcome of the Churchill project in Endless Street/Rollestone Street some eight years ago, it would make the following specific comments.

We would have preferred to see an element of social housing included.

Generally, we would prefer to see a design which is more contemporary, and more adventurous. Within the constraints of the design approach which has been adopted, there is clearly significant scope for guarantees of the quality of materials, and for future flexibility.