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Historic England fury as huge 98-bed apartment block to be placed on Worcester’s famed vinegar works site

PART of Worcester’s old vinegar works site is being demolished for a towering multi-million pound apartment block – despite an outcry from Historic England.

Worcester City[1] Council has handed developers permission to dramatically transform St Martin’s Quarter by erecting a huge 98-flat tower. But the scheme will see a series of historic buildings linked to Worcester’s world famous vinegar industry knocked down against the advice of experts. The new towerblock will be one of Worcester’s tallest buildings at six storeys high, and sit next to the old Jaguar car showroom fronting City Walls Road now known as The Bedroom Centre.

But it will see widespread demolition of around six buildings, including the current car body repair shop facing St Martin’s Gate car park. Historic England says the buildings formed part of the famed vinegar works once deemed “the greatest and most important of their kind in the world”, and has objected angrily to the move. But the city council has allowed it to go ahead, saying the site itself was earmarked for widespread demolition in 2010 when permission was granted for a 128-bed hotel – a project which never got off the ground.

The council also says it does not consider the buildings that important compared to the main vinegar factory now occupied by the Territorial Army or the granary and fermenting shed, which are not part of the changes. But English Heritage says the city has allowed part of Worcester’s heritage to be damaged “significantly”. The watchdog also says the massive new tower will “overpower” the Conservation Area’s skyline and the city in general.

Katriona Byrne, from Historic England, said the buildings being knocked down “date from significant phases in the history of the site”. She said: “Their character signals the historic presence of the site’s industrial use and help to anchor the surviving granary and fermenting shed to their context – rather than leaving them ‘marooned’ as token reminders of the area’s history.”

She added: “In 1903 the vinegar works were described as ‘probably the greatest and most important of their kind in the world’.”

But the council’s planning committee has allowed it the green light, saying the benefits outweigh the negatives. Alan Coleman, a senior planning officer, said: “It’s a very sustainable site within walking distance of the city centre.

“We note the concerns of Historic England, however we don’t share them – the buildings have previously been earmarked for demolition.”

Councillor Geoff Williams criticised a lack of affordable housing being planned, saying the plans were a “big change” from the old hotel bid, but it was voted through unanimously. Several councillors backed the scheme including Councillor Alan Feeney, who said it would bring much-needed new housing to the city in a good location.

WORCESTER’S old Hill and Evans Vinegar Works date back to around 1830 and were the biggest anywhere in the world, producing two million gallons of malt vinegar a year. Its main building is Grade II listed and is one of the most distinctive in the city – it was converted into the current Territorial Army base facing Silver Street. The vinegar industry got so big that the Great Filling Hall, built in the 1850s, even had its own train line by 1872 to bring workers in.

The buildings now set for demolition were mainly built in the late 19th century or early 20th century as activity on the site expanded. Hill and Evans also produced British wines, sherry and port, as well as quinine, with the works closing in 1965 after more than 100 years of business. St Martin’s Quarter still retains an old granary and fermenting shed alongside the main vinegar works factory hall.

References

  1. ^ Worcester City (www.worcesternews.co.uk)

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