A plan to demolish a Victorian house and replace it with student flats is being recommended for approval – despite York council officers describing part of the design as ‘monotonous and bland’.
York’s conservation architect and York Civic Trust both object to the proposal to demolish the ‘heritage asset’ Aubrey House on Foss Islands Road, and build a five-storey student block in its place.
But members of the planning committee are being recommended to approve the development when they meet on Thursday (6 January).
Developers Urbanite want to build the accommodation, which would comprise 11 cluster flats providing 62 bed spaces and 19 studio flats, a communal room and roof terrace.
In his objection, Dr Duncan Marks of York Civic Trust writes: “The architecture of Aubrey House itself remains one of the last tangible links to the C19 and early C20 uses of the site and when a community existed here.”
It was probably built as a forge. “The loss of these structures would be detrimental to the historic and aesthetic value of the area, for which there are scant remnants left,” Dr Marks says.
Carpetright next door has been demolished to make way for a 188-bed hotel and other student blocks have been built on Foss Islands Road.
More thought needs to be given to the public realm of the street, he writes. “Otherwise, this area of the city is at risk of becoming the planning equivalent of a dumping ground of cheap hotels and densely-spaced student accommodation, with barely a tree or blade of grass between them, surrounded by busy roads and appalling air quality.”
York’s conservation architect writes: “The historic character immediately beyond the historic walls in this part of the city has largely been lost, but this means the remaining buildings are now key illustrations of the historic development of this part of the city, and their demolition and will harm that ability to understand.”
Council officers note that the design of the new block is far from perfect: “There are weaknesses in the scheme, notably the side and rear elevations which will appear particularly monotonous and bland due to the scale of the building and there being shear walls with no meaningful relief.”
But these views are ‘partially screened’, they say in a report to councillors.
Despite these concerns, officers are recommending the plans for approval, saying the loss of Aubrey House would not cause ‘substantial harm’.
You can read their report here.