Penrith town councillors have welcomed revised plans which have been submitted to create new offices for Eden District Council staff at Voreda House.
The district council, who own the Portland Place building, is seeking approval for a net zero carbon retrofit of the existing office block, which will involve the demolition and replacement of external cladding, demolition of external stairs and the creation of an external service zone, together with an extension of ground floor area to match upper floors.
Scott Jackson, chairman of Penrith town council’s planning committee chairman, said: “This has been brought back to us as revised plans have been submitted.”
Members of the town council’s planning committee were told in a report: “The proposal will potentially meet a substantial part of the commitment to make Eden District Council’s operation carbon neutral by 2030, which was enshrined in EDC’s climate emergency declaration made on July 11 2019.”
Deputy town clerk Ros Richardson said an objection had previously been lodged by the town council on visual impact grounds due to the proposed cladding colour.
The windows were also said to be too large, overlooking adjacent properties, and councillors didn’t want the wall facing Coronation Garden reduced in height.
In addition, there was said to have been an impact on parking, as well.
She explained that revisions to the planning application included a muted complementary pallet of greens, with some orange or red around the windows.
The cladding was going to be using two colour tones and the individual panels were going to be aligned at slightly different angles to create a slightly wavy textured-effect.
All windows are going to be set back from the external wall and have been reconfigured slightly so they are not different sizes and are not quite as big as they were, the meeting was told.
The proposed lowering of the boundary wall with Voreda House by 800mm still retains a sandstone wall of 2,350mm in height to Coronation Garden to maintain a sense of enclosure, but creates a balustrade height wall from the Voreda House entrance area, allowing pedestrians to enjoy the amenity of the gardens as intended when they were first created in 1938.
The proposed “green” wall of Voreda House was said to create a more appropriate backdrop to the garden than the current building. It is not intended that Voreda House connects directly with the Coronation Garden.
“It will have planters installed along the wall, with seasonal flowers and grasses to help the visual impact onto Coronation Garden,” said Ms Richardson.
She added that it was proposed that the Drovers Lane car park will now remain available for the public.
There are 104 parking bays in that car park at present, with 30 public permits issued.
The Drovers Lane car park, will however, be also available for Eden Council staff and all district councillors and staff are entitled to a free parking permit, so that could still impact on parking that’s available, the meeting was told.
“It does sound like a good number of issues have been addressed. All our comments were based on trying to improve this and it is great to be listened to,” said Mr Jackson.
Town councillor Dave Kanggs said Eden District Council had listened to their concerns and had acted upon them and Hilary Snell agreed that it was pleasing that they had appeared to have been listened to.
Charlie Shepherd, who is vice-chairman of the Friends of Coronation Garden, said that while he was pleased the boundary wall was going to be 800mm high, 200mm were still being lost.
“This new wall is over nine feet high and that will provide a significant feature end wall and reflect, heat and light and everything to promote the growing of things and I know that some of our supporters are looking at planting on that wall, even bird boxes and things, so I’m glad for that.
“I think all the changes are an improvement, but whether or not they are enough of an improvement, I don’t think we are going to get any further,” said Mr Shepherd.
It was agreed that no objection will now be lodged to the Voreda House planning application by Penrith Town Council.