Bob Winkle writes a response to Peter Allen’s article that was published in the Great Barr Observer on 10th January 2014:
I refer to the article in the Great Barr Observer last week by Peter Allen providing more history about Great Barr Hall. We have been friends and fellow members of the Great Barr Hall Action Committee since this was set up in 1987, both having actively campaigned together for a sympathetic restoration of the Hall and parkland.
I was dismayed therefore, to read that he seemed inclined to support the current Lapworth proposals, as for many years he has forwarded the view that the best plan would be to restore the hall to its original Georgian design, built off the existing footings. This being a smaller building of much simpler design without the chapel extension (billiard room) and other embellishments added at a much later date. The important historical connection that Great Barr Hall embraces dates back to its original design when members of the Lunar Society considered it “their favourite meeting place”.
Peter set out his proposals in his booklet “The Mary Scott Blueprint” published in 2004, which is available on the website: www.greatbarrhall.com
In my opinion, the current proposals for the rebuilding of the Hall will result in nothing less than a pastiche of the later design of the Hall, having a footprint far in excess of the original. The fabric of the building has deteriorated so much that only two elevations are still remaining and these are in near state of collapse, with much of the brickwork and rendering having extensive damage, which will probably have to be rebuilt. Even the barrel vaulting to the cellars shown in the pictures has been destroyed by vandals. The only reason these elevations are being incorporated in the new building is to retain the listed status thus allowing the owners to claim enabling development.
I question therefore whether this new building with its extended elevations, added turrets and clock tower can be called a restoration when in fact it will be a new building. It will be absolutely unrecognisable to those who frequented the hall in those days and many of us who have lived alongside it in recent years and the historical connections will be non-existent.
I and many others question whether the cost of this elaborate new building, with the disadvantages it will bring, will be of any benefit to the community. A much smaller scheme necessitating less enabling development would most likely meet with approval. Is this grand and elaborate private estate requiring 59 new dwellings, loss of green belt open space, the walled enclosure along chapel lane, restricted access for some and none for others, a banqueting centre seating nearly 500 people and all the associated traffic problems etc, what residents really want?
Enabling development is considered to be akin to public money and as such cannot be raised and used without public involvement and approval.
Peter stated in his blueprint “I implore all involved parties to reconsider their positions. This is a very critical time for this exceptional estate. We just have one chance to get thing right. It is crucial the proper decisions are made before irreversible processes are set in motion.”
I believe we need to have much more community involvement before we reach an acceptable solution.
Bob Winkle – Chairman Beacon Action Group