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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Yew Tree Hill, Droitwich, Worcestershire (1962)

© Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

This post is in response to a query left on the About BWTAS posting, back in May 2011. Back then, all I knew about this tower was that it was a square reinforced concrete tower and it's location: SO 90306 61602. We now know that this 150,000 gallon water tower was constructed in 1962, at a cost of £35,000, for the East Worcestershire Waterworks Co. The tower is 110 feet high and comprises a square tank supported by 12 slender square sectioned columns, of 81 feet, around the perimeter and a square service shaft that passes up through the tank, forming a penthouse to give access to the top of the tank. Construction was by Messrs. Currall, Lewis & Martin Ltd., but we don't know who designed this stunning water tower. If you have any further details, please leave a comment.

The photograph of the construction of this tower is published with the kind permission of The Concrete Society.


Jumbo plans recommended for approval by council officers

By Caroline Tilley

CONTROVERSIAL plans to transform Colchester’s water tower should be given the thumbs up, according to planning officers.

Colchester Council officers have said the proposals for Jumbo should be approved despite fierce opposition.

They say the plans would revamp Jumbo, bring in shoppers and give the building a viable use.

But the final decision will be down to the council’s planning committee when it meets next Thursday.

Owner George Braithwaite wants to create three apartments, a restaurant and a museum and observatory with a cafe in the Grade II listed building.

English Heritage has opposed the plans, as have a number of others, saying it would “radically change” the water tower.

Colchester Council’s planning committee at will meet at 6pm on Thursday, October 31, at Colchester Town Hall.

Response by Nat Bocking, General Secretary of BWTAS.

Amongst BWTAS members there is likely to be found a wide variety of opinion on the merits of redevelopment of water towers, therefore BWTAS does not endorse nor either protest at these proposals. 

However, it is plain in this report that only one aspect of this plan is by any means 'concrete', in that the developer will convert Jumbo into three apartments. The occupancy and usage of any remaining space is not assured. There is no guarantee any allocated space will be suitable or the rent required will be affordable for a restaurant (which are notoriously unstable tenants) or a museum and observatory  (which are even less financially viable) to occupy the water tower.

While we do not in any way suggest that it would happen here, there have been numerous cases of redevelopment by stealth. Appeasement of planners by providing a community space in a development has been wriggled out of by imposing restrictive conditions until the users rights are eventually relinquished.

Were this application from a consortium of partners made of the developer and heritage bodies, more people in BWTAS could be enthusiastic rather than pessimistic.

To our knowledge there have been no proposals from any heritage groups to create a museum inside Jumbo except one which wants to keep Jumbo intact, as the intact and restored Jumbo itself would be their most prized exhibit. This group's business plan is long standing and judged viable, were it not for the burden of the asking price of a series of owners trying to recover their reckless speculative investment. The first one picked up the redundant property for £100,000 and apparently sold it on at a loss for £86,000 but Jumbo has been a growing investment bubble ever since.

Jumbo is without question the finest example of its type and it represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to preserve an example from a golden age of civil engineering. Kept intact Jumbo can be a resource for a great number of useful purposes which accord with its neighbours and community stakeholders at a serviceable cost. Its usefulness and accordance with every aspect of its surroundings would be greatly diminished by an unsympathetic and excessive conversion.

The business model of a developer is of no concern to a planner except when development grants are concerned but on a project of this scale it cannot be ignored. This latest proposal for conversion has no guarantees that Jumbo will be put into sustainable use and so benefit Colchester. Allowing conversion to that extent closes the door forever on another use originally proposed which could sustain Jumbo intact. If that plan failed, it would still allow many alternatives to be considered.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Jumbo water tower on most endangered list



Colchester's famous Jumbo water tower, which dominates the town's skyline has been included on the Victorian Society’s list of the ten most endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales.


The list was drawn up from nominations from members of the public following a nationwide appeal to find the country’s best and most threatened buildings.

To be eligible a building has to be at risk, whether from redundancy, neglect, demolition or, as in the case of the Jumbo Water Tower, the danger of insensitive redevelopment.


The Colchester Jumbo Water Tower Credit: ITV Anglia

Norwich: exhibition

Photographs Now on Display

A collection of photographs, including many of water towers, have gone on display in Norwich. But its only open Friday 18th to Sunday 20th October 2013 (Friday: 4-8 pm, Saturday 12-6 pm & Sunday 12-4 pm). It's at Yallops, 59 St. Augustine's Street, Norwich, NR3 3BG and also a little further down the street at Nunn's Yard. For further information, please see the earlier posting here.


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Progress in Balkan politics

On our asking, the Balkerne Tower Trust (BTT) has provided BWTAS a update on the status of Jumbo; Colchester's iconic water tower.

In August 2012 BTT was contacted by Simon Plater, the current owner's agent and architect, inviting them to meet with him and Robert Pomery, the owners planning consultant regarding a possible new planning application and to "explore common ground".

BTT were shown two drawings showing two floors of offices at the base, more offices in the tank and a floor under the tank, and ‘museum’ space allocated to a floor under that and also in the roof space. The tank walls were to be replaced by glass on the north and south sides, and a new dog-leg staircase would be inserted between the legs. The BTT was invited to be a "working partner" in the scheme to run the museum space.

The BTT responded by asking the owner George Braithwaite to consider selling Jumbo to the BTT. In September 2012 a reply was received offering Jumbo for sale for £333,000 plus various costs. The BTT then approached Colchester & Ipswich Museums to seek their opinion of both the potential and the problems of utilising the proposed space as a museum. After meeting in October 2012, the BTT decided to refuse cooperation with the latest scheme on the grounds of excessive alteration to the structure of the building and it made a counter offer that Jumbo should be sold at a more realistic price.

Meawhile the BTT continued fundraising and consultation to produce an interpretative information panel about Jumbo to be sited at its base. In August 2012 the Colchester and N E Essex Building Preservation Trust pledged up to £600 towards this along with £500 from a BTT Trustee and £100 from the Civic Society. 

The BTT also had a series of meetings with Colchester Borough Council officers about the continued dilapidation and appearence of Jumbo and its surroundings and to effect the removal of the unsightly hoarding around its base which had been permitted temporarily for works subsequently never carried out. Permission for them had expired in 2007. With the support from Cllr Jo Hayes (Heritage Champion) and Cllr Lynn Barton (Cabinet Portfolio holder for Regeneration), a letter to the owner requiring the removal of the hoarding was promised. 

In early December Colchester Borough Council informed BTT that removal of the hoarding around Jumbo could not be legally enforced and it proposed the decoration of the hoarding instead. Just before Christmas, Jumbo's owner repainted the hoarding.

The BTT submitted a Freedom of Information request for all communication to and from CBC about the hoarding. The resulting documents and letters were shared with local councillors including Cllr Jo Hayes. Her research concluded that CBC was mistaken and the removal of the hoarding could be enforced. After representations to them by BTT, several councillors then strongly communicated their wish for the removal of the hoarding to be enforced. Beverly Jones (Head of Environmental Services) then engaged a barrister for CBC with specialist planning expertise to settle the issue of enforcement.

In early February 2013 the barrister reported that removal could be enforced and by mid-March this had been carried out. For the first time since 2004, passers-by could appreciate a complete view of Jumbo. However the owner did not prevent vehicles subsequently parking untidily on the site.

Planning permission for the interpretative panel was granted and permission to erect the panel on CBC owned land to the south of Jumbo. Cllr Bill Frame also allocated £500 of his grant for local projects. The final design was agreed with the Friends of the Colchester Roman Wall and the Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service and installed. The unveiling ceremony with Sir Bob Russell MP doing the honours took place on April 6, 2013 and was attended by about fifty people including local councillors and others involved in local heritage.

On May 22, 2013 new planning applications were registered with CBC to convert Jumbo to flats and restaurant and office space on new floors between the legs but retaining the tank intact in which a ‘museum’ was proposed. The new scheme received a great deal of sympathetic local press coverage. In June BTT held a meeting to consider their response and it was decided that on the grounds that the proposals were for filling-in the legs, the removal of the original pipes and valves and the cutting of holes in the tank to provide views, that it be opposed. A detailed response was then submitted. BTT also objected that it had not been formally consulted as it should have been.

Letters were subsequently received from the owner's planning consultant, suggesting that BTT take on the museum space in advance of the planning committee hearing, so implying support for the applications. Replies were sent making clear the opposition to the applications and proposed that the owner donate Jumbo, which has no commercial value, to BTT.

Enquiries have subsequently been recieved by BTT from bodies with heritage responsibility asking for financial information, its capacity to fundraise and whether BTT has a business plan for Jumbo to which appropriate responses have been supplied.

Letters expressing opinions for and against the applications have since appeared in the local press. The date of the planning committee hearing is not yet known.

Ely good news

From  the Ely Standard

Hundreds of thousands to be spent on water tower upgrades

Ely Water Tower
Daniel Mansfield Sunday, October 6, 2013
11:43 AM
The water towers in Ely and Haddenham are to undergo a £750,000 refurbishment to sure up the water supply in the area for the next decade.

Anglian Water will carry out essential maintenance and upgrades over the next three months, with the towers planned to be back in service in December.

The towers, which jointly hold more than five million litres of water and serve nearly 10,000 homes and businesses in Ely and Haddenham, will be renovated using a number of innovative technologies including a new lining which moulds to the inside of the building. This means the water tank itself does not need to be replaced.

Anglian Water said superficial work to the outsides of the tanks would also be carried out if required.

Paul Naylor, regional supply manager for Anglian Water, said: “It’s vital the treated water stored in these towers continues to be protected for decades to come. We’ve already started the necessary preparation work and the use of new innovations, like the liner, will help us to complete the work efficiently.”

The two projects are part of Anglian Water’s overall investment programme. This year the company has announced it will spend £466 million on maintaining and improving its equipment and services.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Water tower plans lead to Poole hot water

From the Bournemouth Echo:

Ashley Road traders' anger over car park plans leads to further scrutiny
12:00pm Monday 7th October 2013 in News By Diana Henderson
Richard Wilson, far left, with other traders
RESIDENTS and traders’ fears that they may lose a crucial car park in Poole will be scrutinised by a council committee.

A massive petition signed by 1,136 people was presented by Richard Wilson, chairman of Ashley Road Traders Association, to Borough of Poole, opposing proposals by Wessex Water over the Mansfield Road car park.

The water company owns the decommissioned Grade II listed Victorian water tower and car park and is working on plans to convert the tower into two flats and build eight new homes with parking on the surrounding car park.

Under the lease Borough of Poole would be given 12 months notice to vacate the site and this has not been served – however the nearby surgery, whose patients use the car park, and residents are fearful for the future.

“It will also have a severe effect on the traders who rely on the car park – if you start taking that away you start to lose trade,” said Mr Wilson.

“It’s totally unacceptable they want to take it away after it’s been there so many years.”

The car park has 52 spaces and in a report Julian McLaughlin, head of transportation services, said existing budgets would not enable the council to buy the site.

Cllr Brian Clements, chairman of the economy overview and scrutiny committee put forward an amendment which was agreed, for his committee to look at the potential impact of any closure and to consider any possible mitigation.

He said the work the traders association was doing to support and regenerate the area was very important and he understood their dismay. They are also objecting to the possible loss of parking spaces outside shops in Ashley Road.

“The western section of the shopping area is more reliant on passing trade from motorists than other areas and there is great concern amongst traders and their customers alike as evidenced by the extraordinary level of support for the petition,” he said.

A spokesman for Wessex Water has said they are in the early stages of investigating how to restore and re-use the water tower. “We will be listening to the views of local people and discussing any concerns about local parking provision with the council.


A flickr collection of images can be found here


The 1995 Grade II listing says:

"Water tower. Late C19. For Dorset Water Board. Red brick with white brick dressings, some limestone and terracotta dressings, with cast-iron tank and other ironwork. Square plan. 3-stage tower with 2-bay sides, carrying a cast-iron tank. Tower has battered plinth of red brick in English bond with 2 recessed bands of paler red brick and limestone roll moulding to top of plinth; broken by round-headed doorway to rear (regarding street elevation as front). Sides are divided into 2 bays by giant white brick pilaster strips to angles and centre of each side. Pilaster strips have tall, thin sunk panels of red brick with round-arched heads, and bands of red brick above, defining "capitals". Round arches of white brick join pilaster strips and frame 3 tiers of tall iron-framed windows with round-arched heads of white brick, except to rear which is windowless; dentilled brick string courses at stage levels within giant arches. Large terracotta paterae to spandrels of arches joining pilaster strips and round-arched corbel frieze. Cast-iron brackets between arches of corbel frieze support iron railing and timber deck of walkway round base of tank, directly below corbel frieze. Tank has pattern of 7 square panels in 3 tiers, framing circle joined to courses by diagonals. Central circle to street side frames medallion lettered round rim JOHN ABBOT & CO GREENHEAD-ON-TYNE and in centre LIMITED 1884. INTERIOR not inspected."

An article about the near-identical twin Broadstone Water Tower at says:

"In 1859, Board of Trade records show approval of a scheme to satisfy the immediate needs of Poole and Parkstone. Poole Water Co. were granted permission to construct a scheme which collected surface water from gathering grounds in the Lilliput area, lifting the water to a new water tower in Mansfield Road, Parkstone, via a steam pumping plant. Today Parkstone Water Tower is not used as part of the modem distribution infrastructure but is preserved as a Grade II listed building. Poole's demands were further supplemented by similar gathering grounds to the south west of the Shah of Persia public house, with the water distributed via mains laid in Longfleet Road and North Road, linking with the gathering grounds established at Alderney Brickworks via Old Wareham Road. ... 

Consisting of a mass concrete foundation, mass brickwork base and column surmounted by a cast iron sectional tank, the tower stands 50 ft tall from ground level to the base of the cast iron tank and typifies Victorian engineering - functional, efficient and decorative. ... Although no records of the tower's construction have been found to date by this author, a conservative calculation estimates the number of bricks in the structure to be around 400,000, most probably of local manufacture. The tower is served by an internal timber stairway giving access to an external gantry at tank level with all rising and falling mains contained within a central structural shaft. The cast iron storage tank has a capacity of 270,000 litres or 60,000 gallons, sufficient for the average daily supply of approximately 2,000 people at present day consumption rates. At the time of their construction both the tank and ground level reservoir were open topped, a feature which inevitably degraded water quality and necessitated frequent skimming and cleaning to remove debris."

Nigel Martin, Distribution Manager, Wessex Water.