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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Cumbrian arts centre's ‘ghastly’ revamp again rejected by council planners

Plans to transform Cockermouth’s Kirkgate Centre have been refused for a second time by Allerdale council’s development panel.

Kirkgate Centre photo
Kirkgate Centre in Cockermouth

Councilors voted against a proposed £1.5 million extension to the centre at a meeting last night.

The centre’s development manager Kate Parry had sought permission to partly demolish the east and west gables of the former Victorian school and add two modern, zinc-clad extensions linked to the existing building with glass walkways.

The extension would include a foyer with a cafe bar, seating area and box office, a community meeting room, better offices and improved seating, lighting and sound equipment in the auditorium.

Against planning officers’ recommendations for approval, the plans were refused for same reason given when it came before the panel in July – that the modern design of the planned extensions would be out of keeping with the town’s conservation area.

The development has split opinion in the town with a 366-signature petition in support of the plans and support from the civic trust and English Heritage.

The initial application had 52 letters in support and the resubmitted plans have attracted a further 16 backers. The previous application received 46 letters of objection, plus another 13 for the resubmission and a 266-name petition against the plans.

Cockermouth town council has also objected.

Meredyth Bell, who runs a dental surgery from a listed building in Market Place, said: “This extension will have absolutely nothing to cushion it, it will look appalling. I would love to see an extension and the centre needs it but I don’t think it needs to be in these materials.”

Ms Parry and agent for the plans Anthea Jones told the meeting that they did not believe the plans needed to be changed and that they had provided more information on why the proposed materials were chosen.

Ms Jones added: “We feel it is an innovative design that respects the old while bringing in the new.”

Councillor Joe Holiday said: “I am sure it could be more in keeping with the building itself.

“I just don't understand why they didn’t at least try to appease the local people. I am very disappointed they haven’t at least tried to compromise.”

Councillor Jim Lister moved for refusal and was seconded by councillor Nicky Cockburn who branded the plans “ghastly”.

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