A last minute e-mail sent by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society has played a vital part in the unanimous rejection of Marlborough College’s plans to breach its listed boundary wall to install new gates.
The College, which is seeking a Puffin crossing at the top of Bridewell Street for female students using its new Ivy House hostel, wanted to make entry into the campus safer.
But the society, founded in 1853 and backed by the Council for British Archaeology, dramatically informed the Eastern Area Planning Committee that, since the origins of the wall were possibly “medieval”, this made the planning application unacceptable.
And this was probably a key factor in the six committee members present voting down the new gates proposal.
The email declared: “The wall (1836 or earlier) in question predates Marlborough school (founded 1843) and has a coping top that appears to be recovered building material from an earlier period. These may even be of medieval origin.”
“The date of the wall and the materials would therefore require that proposal to adopt a resolution that did not require the loss of this historic boundary wall. In any event, the copings should be assessed for the historic origination.”
The email, sent by John Baumber, chairman of the society’s Buildings and Monuments Committee, is made a second objecting, pointing out:
“Whilst it is not in our remit to consider the need or otherwise of a pedestrian crossing at this particular location, the applicant should research other solutions to the problem considering traffic history and incident occurrence before being allowed to remove historic boundary wall.”
Factual evidence to show the need for the crossing – it would be the third on the Bath Road edge of the campus – was also challenged by John Ford, a resident of the High Street, in a letter to the planning committee.
And during the meeting there was confusion when Wiltshire Council’s solicitor claimed that only the application to create a hole in the wall, not the need for a new crossing, was material to the application.
However, Councillor Nick Fogg, who represents Marlborough at county level and called in the planning application for urgent consideration, insisted that the report of planning officer Charlotte Douglas extensively raised both issues, and the fact that could not be separated was accepted.
Mr Ford’s letter declared that a similar proposal in 2008 revealed that there had been no accidents at all in Bridewell Street for the previous five years – and there had been no accidents since then either.
“This cannot be construed as a dangerous an hazardous crossing point,” he said, pointing out that there was no statistics to support the claim by the College’s consultants, Cole Easdon, that there were an estimated 1,400 daily pedestrian movements at the crossing point.
“The figure would seem to be ridiculous,” he suggested, adding that since he Puffin was solely for the benefit of the College and not residents, there was no justification in it being paid for by public funding.
“Of course the College is now free to appeal and its consultants will probably suggest that it does so,” Councillor Fogg told Marlborough News Online. “We can only wait and see what happens.”
College wall pic from the Marlborough College Planning Application