A  CRITIQUE  BY  JOHN  SOANE,  BUILT  ENVIRONMENT  CONSULTANT TO THE  BOURNEMOUTH  CIVIC  SOCIETY FOR SEPTEMBER, 2017                                                                                                                             
Winter Gardens site, 20, 20a, 20b Exeter Road   Ref. No 7-2017-11507-X
This is a very large application which seeks to develop comprehensively, the cleared Winter Gardens and the demolished Keystone House, in the form of several blocks, between 3 and 15 storeys high to include the following features:-
352 apartments; up to 5284 sq. m. leisure; 1162 sq. m. convenience retail; up to 2816 sq. m. cafe/bar/restaurants; 370 sq. m. offices/services; 225 public car parking spaces.
The Civic Society has realised for a long time that a comprehensive development scheme for the Winter Gardens would be essential in order to ensure that the centre of Bournemouth was used to the fullest extent for the benefit of inhabitants and visitors alike.  The greatest problem would be to ensure that the new townscape to be created would be a well integrated visual unit that would fit in with the least aesthetic disturbance to the existing early nineteenth century spatial ambience of the town centre. In addition, in order to respect the openness of the former landscaped elements of the site, it would be necessary to ensure  it would be necessary to preserve as much open space leading from the junction of Cranbourne and Exeter Roads into the interior of the site.
The proposed lay out would of two 15 storey towers in the centre of the site –each connected by stepped down floors to relatively short terrace block five storeys high.  At the Priory Road/ Exeter Road corner of the site there would be a ten storey flat tower with a five storey block terrace in Priory Road and a much more substantial building along Exeter Road doubling back to form an interior courtyard.  On the corner of Tregonwell Road and Cranborne there would be a small tower block of 7/8 storeys.
The greater proportion of the facades of the two highest tower blocks would be in the form of French windows/concrete faced balconies.  The stepped down floors would be glass fronted and the terraced block facades would contain flats with the fenestration arranged in recessed balconies or in regular strips of vertical windows. The Priory Road/Exeter Road facades would be strongly marked by continuous white  horizontal balconies except on the facades away from the road where the majority of the fenestration would be in the form of regularly spaced, vertical windows.  The more isolated block near Cranborne Road would consist of a asymmetrical combination of glass balconied facades and more regularly placed, vertical windows.
The Civic Society fully accepts that on so large and prominent a site, even if adjacent to a number of much older and prominent buildings such as the Royal Exeter Hotel, buildings of a modernist character are likely to be required.  We certainly appreciate that the two tallest towers in the centre enable a greater degree of open space to be allowed for on the rest of the site. In addition, in view of the undulating nature of this part of the West Cliff the impact of the considerable height of the two central towers would be reduced.  However while accepting that the architectural design of these towers is a reasonable choice for such high buildings we feel that the design of the facades on the lower attached terraces could be better integrated – especially by means of a greater vertical emphasis in relation to the balconied sections.  Moreover the angled end walls of the terraced section is, we think, an un necessary modernist fad and should be reconsidered.
However, while accepting that the general visuality of the entire complex would be improved by a reduction of at least two storeys from the two central towers, the Society reserves its strongest criticism for the excessive height of the 10 storey tower at the corner of Priory and Exeter Roads and the architectural treatment of the attached, six storey block along Exeter Road.   We consider the tower far too high and bulky in relation to the low rise neighbouring buildings in this very historic part of central Bournemouth.  Up till now views over the early Victorian, garden townscape across the Lower Pleasure Gardens have always managed to be preserved – indeed hardly any exceptions, restrictions on the excessive height of new buildings have always been part of the accepted planning convention of every council local plan.  The advice of the early nineteenth century planner Decimus Burton that the central valley of the Bourne should NEVER be encroached upon by excessive construction has always been respected.  Consequently the Society was not surprised that the Planning Department received a long and powerfully worded letter from Historic England pointing out that if the proposed tower at the corner of Priory and Exeter Roads were built, it would cause severe degredation to the aesthetic quality of the historic views from the West Cliff to St. Peters Church which have been enjoyed by inhabitants and visitors alike for over a century and a half. Furthermore 15 letters have been received from local residents, nearly all of them echoing the fears of Historic England that the high quality of the urban scene in central Bournemouth was now in danger of being irretrievably destroyed.  In respect to the architectural treatment of the attached 6 storey block along Exeter Road, we feel that the facade by means of intermediate divisions, should be given a much stronger vertical emphasis as a contrast to the tower.  With regard to the latter, the Society thinks it should be reduced by at least three or four stories and be given a more individual shape  by being crowned by a receding circular dome/cupola.
Therefore we have reached the conclusion that because this application does not fulfil completely the townscape policies of the Bournemouth Local Plan, it should be deferred for further consideration. 4.19, i, ii, and iii )
Hilton Hotel, Terrace Road      Ref. No. 7-2017-16530-X and Y
 This is an application to embellish further, the existing facilities of the newly completed Hilton Hotel
This will involved the construction of a new entertainment/hospitality area to be built at 13th floor level on the tower section of the hotel.  The new structure would be very transparent and consist of glass walls with curved walls and roof to match the existing appearance of the tall tower.
On the ground floor there would be a new exterior terrace area and a new staircase from which access would be gained to the main entrance.
The Society feels the general design of the new entertainment area is an improvement on the incongruous, square shape that was rejected in the first application. Further we think the very light appearance of this new addition would not in any way disturb the balance of the original tower design; for indeed it would be attached to the rear service tower of the hotel which would be still one storey higher in height than the proposed sky room.   At the other end of the building, we think the new arrangements would give the tower a better visual appearance in relation to the corner of Cranborne and Exeter Roads.
Consequently we believe that since this application has fulfilled the majority of the townscape policies of the Bournemouth Local Plan, it should be allowed.(  4.19, i, ii, and iii )
56 Christchurch Road    Ref. No.  7-2017-22655-F
This an application, within the East Cliff Conservation Area, to construct  a three to four storry block 21 flats on the site of a substantial, but considerably altered, late Victorian villa,  now an hotel.  The principal facade, equally of half timbering and brick, would be built in the form of a large, traditional, mansion flat block and topped by a prominent hipped roof.  There would be two significant projections near each other towards the centre of the facade to which three story bay windows would be attached. The facade extremities would have recessed French windows/balconies on the first and second floors.  The rear elevation also has projections and more dormers in the roof but no bay windows.   All windows on both elevations are regularly spaced with upper divisions.  At the rear end of the site, on the site of the coach house, a terrace of six semi-detached houses would be built in simplified Arts and Crafts style.
In general terms, we are sorry that the existing original building cannot be retained and improved and we find the form and mass of the new structure far too large  and overwhelming for the site; for the adjacent properties  are generally smaller and still exhibit a degree of classical architectural restraint that was more typical of the mid nineteenth century years of the founding of Bournemouth.  We think the style of the principal facade is too “high Victorian” and overblown – in particular the two large projections are placed too near each other and should be at either end of the facade. Also the attached three storey bay windows are far too prominent and incongruous. Moreover the Society finds that the proposed recessed balcony elements actually proposed at the ends of the facade are weak elements in the design and co-ordinate very poorly with the adjacent projections. In sum we see here yet another attempt to disguise an overlarge block of flats in the form of a badly put together, imitation, Victorian mansion block. We would therefore recommend a smaller and less  flamboyant design, possibly in a more restrained late classical form if the existing building cannot be retained.
Under the circumstances the Society suggests that since this application does not fulfil properly the conservation policies of the Bournemouth Local Plan, it should be deferred for further discussion. (4.19, i, ii, and iii )
7  East Overcliff Drive   Ref. No.    7-2017-11507-X
This is the latest application to construct a three storey block of six flats on the site of a demolished, inter-war classical style house. The site lies within the East Cliff Conservation Area.
The Society is very pleased to observe that after several abortive attempts, an acceptable design for the principal facade in the form of a classical regency villa has emerged at last.  We would simply suggest that a slightly more regular arrangement of the windows on the second and ground floors should now be contemplated. We therefore suggest that because this application now satisfies a good proportion of the conservation policies of the Bournemouth Local Plan, it should be allowed. (4.4, i, ii, and  iii )