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Victorian Society objects to Wickham workhouse plans
By Richard Haugh
BBC Suffolk

Copyright Oxymoron and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
The building could be demolished to make way for 38 new homes

Plans to knock down a former workhouse building in Wickham Market are being criticised by the Victorian Society.

The owner of Deben Court, formerly known as the Plomesgate Union Workhouse, has applied to demolish the building and erect 38 affordable homes.

"It's an important part of the history of Wickham Market and it would be a shame to see it go," said Chris Costello, Victorian Society.

"The new buildings are inoffensive but are very undistinguished."

Mr Costello, conservation advisor for the charity, said there are three reasons for opposing Flagship's plans.

"Firstly it's a very interesting building - it's good quality architecturally, was built to the best standards of the time and it's got interesting brickwork and chimneys," he said.

"The second reason is it's a very important historic building. Generations of poor inhabitants of the area lived there, then it was used in the Second World War for refugees from the Spanish Civil War and soldiers returning from Dunkirk.

"Since then it's been council housing and then housing association housing.

"The third reason is sustainability. This building already provides 32 housing units and there's spare land for six more.

"If you demolish it and rebuild it you'll have essentially exactly what you've got there now and you would have expended thousands of tonnes of unnecessary concrete, lorry journeys etc just to get back to the starting point."

Demolition the 'only option'

The Victorian Society's wish to see the building modernised, however, is not an option according to the owners, Flagship.

"If we were to refurbish this building it would cost us £1.9m and at the end of that we'd have flats that are still not easy to let, or more importantly to live in," said Martin Aust, strategy and development director at Flagship.

"We would have spent money that would have, for instance, been able to improve or replace 950 bathrooms in our other properties.

"The refurbishment cost for the current 32 properties equates to £1.9m. The cost to Flagship of building 38 new homes, an additional six, that are highly energy efficient, with good internal layouts and that will be popular with residents is, coincidentally, £1.9m.

"With limited resources we have to make sensible economic decisions and the only feasible choice here is to demolish this very poor quality building and build some much needed modern, decent quality affordable homes in their place.

"The scheme that is designed to replace the workhouse not only meets a pressing housing need for local people for affordable homes, but it is very sensitively designed and will be very environmentally friendly as well.

"The new buildings are well designed family homes which are built in the local vernacular."

Mr Aust said English Heritage is to review the plans. If given the go ahead the demolition would take place mid 2011, with the new build scheme following shortly after.

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