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Initiatives to Restore Historic Concrete Cottages

Published on Thursday, 30th September 2021

Woodfield Cottages

Maldon District Council is publicly consulting on two initiatives designed to help improve the character and appearance of Woodfield Cottages in Heybridge.

Built in 1873 as homes for the employees of Bentall’s Agricultural Works, the 41 single-storey cottages are a pioneering example of mass concrete construction. Remarkably, until 1918, the cottages and outhouses had flat roofs and were known as the ‘Flat Tops’. Although the cottages were designated as grade II listed buildings in 1971, several have been altered in ways that detract from their traditional character and some have fallen into a poor state of repair.

The first initiative the Council is proposing is the designation of the cottages as a conservation area. This will create the opportunity for the Council to enter into a Conservation Area Partnership Agreement with Historic England, through which grant funding could be made available to owners for works which enhance the character of the area. Woodfield Cottages must first be designated as a conservation area to qualify for the grant funding. It is not just the cottages and outhouses which are important; the lanes, gardens and boundary treatments which surround the original buildings altogether comprise a distinct historic area with a special character and appearance.

The second initiative the Council has developed is the Woodfield Cottages Local Listed Building Consent Order. Currently, owners of the cottages must apply for consent from the Council to make alterations to their homes. Such applications are free of charge but require a certain degree of paperwork, the preparation of architectural drawings and usually take 8 weeks to determine. What the Local Listed Building Consent Order will do is grant automatic consent for selected types of alteration, if they are undertaken in accordance with an approved specification. The order will make it easier for owners of Woodfield Cottages to carry out sympathetic and restorative alterations, by reducing the bureaucratic requirements associated with obtaining Listed Building Consent. If approved, this will be the first example of a Local Listed Building Consent Order in East Anglia.

Jackie Graham, resident of Woodfield Cottages, said, " I think this project is a great idea. The cottages are quite special and many of the residents take pride in living here. It would be lovely to see the character of the area improved. Personally, I’d like to reinstate the original style of sash windows in my cottage and the proposed initiatives would make it much easier for me to do this, particularly if grants become available”.

Cllr Wendy Stamp, Leader of Maldon District Council, said “Woodfield Cottages are an important example of a Victorian industrial housing community and we want to work with residents to help restore the area’s character. 2023 will be the 150th anniversary since the cottages were built. It is hoped that with the proposed initiatives in place, this anniversary can be celebrated with the cottages facing brighter prospects”.

Tony Calladine, Regional Director for Historic England in the East of England said, “Woodfield Cottages represent an important part of our social history showing how generations of workers experienced life in this small community. The cottages, built using innovative techniques and with the wellbeing of workers in mind, represent an important moment in our industrial heritage. We’re pleased to see the initiatives proposed by Maldon District Council to improve the character and condition of these important buildings.”

Further information on the initiatives is available on the Maldon District Council website at www.maldon.gov.uk/consultations.

Any person who wishes to make representations about the draft order or conservation area proposal should write to the Council at planning@maldon.gov.uk  or Maldon District Council, Princes Road, Maldon, CM9 5DL by the 11th of November 2021.