Wed, 24 Jul 2019
FRESH plans to restore Aldermaston’s historic manor house and grounds have been lodged.
Praxis Real Estate Management says that converting the iconic buildings into apartments is the “only remaining option”.
It has applied to turn Blue Circle’s former office block, Portland House, into flats and build two pavilions, which will also become housing.
If approved, the scheme would provide a total of 229 apartments – 93 in Portland House, 23 in the manor house, 62 in pavilion A and 38 in Pavilion B.
Praxis had previously applied to build 227 homes on the redundant cricket pitch, located within the grounds, and use the money from the sale of the homes to fund the restoration of the manor house.
That scheme also included the demolition of Portland House.
However, West Berkshire Council refused those plans last year owing to its unsustainable location.
The site lies with the Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ) for AWE Aldermaston.
Praxis said that its new scheme relies on the conversion of Portland House and the new pavilions to “create a viable solution for the restoration of the listed manor house and park”.
Cement manufacturer Blue Circle acquired Aldermaston Court in the 1980s and converted the manor house into a hotel.
It also built Portland House, its headquarters, in 1985.
The company left the site in the 1990s and the hotel entered administration in 2012.
Praxis purchased the manor park and 140-acre estate for £4.7m in 2014.
The company said that it had extensively marketed the site for a range of uses, including a care home and school.
However, it added that no viable expressions of interest had been received.
The site continues to be marketed for commercial use.
Praxis estimates that it is costing £7,000 a week to secure the site.
With the park deteriorating further, Praxis has now said that residential use is “the only remaining option” to secure the long-term future of Aldermaston Court.
Planning documents, submitted with the new application, state: “The Grade II-listed park is continuing to deteriorate and remains on Historic England’s at risk register, with some of the heritage assets requiring significant repair to prevent extensive damage.
“The costs of maintaining the parkland and buildings make the vacant site unsustainable and new commercially viable occupiers are required to reverse the decline.
“The only viable use that will enable the decline to be reversed is residential space.”
Praxis say that Portland House is “out of character” with the park’s historic setting, but recognise that it is “an established and integral part of the current landscape”.
It added that the new homes would provide “much-needed accommodation within a desirable location” and provide a new community to support the park, which would enable it to be opened up to the public.
Under the previous scheme, residents would have had to pay a service charge towards the upkeep of the manor house and grounds.
The new application includes dedicated car parking provision for St Mary’s Church.
Access to the site will come from the Church Road/Red Lane entrance.
Aldermaston residents voiced strong objections to the previous scheme, saying that restoring the manor was not worth the cost of more than doubling the size of the village.
Concerns were raised over traffic and the impact on local infrastructure, with the district council saying that it would be unsustainable to double the size of Aldermaston Primary School.
Aldermaston Parish Council chairman Dave Shirt said: “Clearly the new proposal is less intrusive than the previous one, but it would still more than double the size of the village.
“I believe a significant factor is that the developer is no longer claiming Enabling Development, so I understand the application will be considered against normal planning rules.”
The parish council will aim to hold a public meeting to discuss the plans, depending on whether it can secure an extension to comment on the scheme.