Thursday, 3 February 2011

Martins Bank-The c20 Society Raises Great Concerns Over Plans To Turn It Into A Hotel.

This is a letter from the C20 society to the Liverpool Planning department about the dodgy application for Martins Bank with a Xmas consultation period. Described by the then Thirties Society as the finest c20 Bank Building in Europe. Planning docs

70 Cowcross Street

London EC1M 6EJ

telephone 020 7250 3857

fax 020 7251 8985


Barbara Kirkbride
Liverpool City Council
Municipal Buildings
Dale Street
Liverpool L2 2DH

26 January 2011
Founded in 1979 as the Thirties Society to protect British Architecture and Design after 1914

Dear Barbara Kirkbride
Barclay's Bank (former Martins Bank), Water Street, Liverpool
Your ref 10F-2813 and 10L-2814    Our ref 10 01 02

The Society wishes to comment on the above planning and listed building consent
applications proposing: to convert the former office block (B1 Use) to 138 bed hotel (C1 Use).
The Society welcomes the proposals to have this significant Grade II* Listed building brought back to full use. However, we are deeply concerned about, and therefore object to, certain aspects of the proposals. Details of our position are presented below.

Pre-application consultation The Society expressed its interest in the former Martins Bank building, and any proposals for its re-use, about a year ago (letter dated 11 January 2010).
However, as you are of course aware, we have not been included in pre application discussions.
Statement of architectural and historical significance and ongoing research
As I am sure you are aware, the significance of the former Martins Bank building cannot be overestimated. Statutorily listed at Grade II*, the building is considered to be the masterpiece of Herbert J. Rowse and one of the ‘best interwar classical buildings in the country’. Its architectural significance is recognised to a great extent to lie in its richly decorated interiors – the main banking hall and director’s room being two remarkable examples.
Its local architectural and historical significance is no lesser: its design is considered to be a superior example of the American classicism promoted through Charles
Reilly's Liverpool School of Architecture. Designed and built for Martins Bank, which has its origins in the sixteenth century, the building is also part of the economic history of Liverpool.

Its architectural and historical significance is further highlighted by the fact that the building is currently included in a research project that looks into the direct connections between the architecture of Liverpool and New York. The Society understands that a permanent exhibition on the subject is to be held at the new Museum of Liverpool and the Liverpool School of Architecture is also involved.
Conversion of the Banking Hall
The Society objects to proposals to extend the mezzanine over the north end of the tellers' desk and introduce to two helical stairs.We consider the proposed mezzanine and helical stairs to be a totally
inappropriate addition that would have a detrimental impact on the Grade II* Listed building’s significance. As noted in its list description, one of the principal reasons for the building’s designation at Grade II* is that this is considered to be ‘one of the best interwar classical buildings in the country’. In
addition to our comments in the paragraph above, we believe that the proposed form of the mezzanine extension and two new stairs would detract from the ‘classical’ elegance and clarity of the banking hall’s original design.
As strongly argued in the PPG15 Statement, the interior of the banking hall is the most important space of the building, both as originally intended and as this survives today. Its qualities rest on both the proportions of the space and its rich finishes and furnishings (4.3.5). As further noted in the
same document, ‘certain areas of the interior ... are vulnerable to change. Thebanking hall is capable of accepting some interventions, but these should not adversely affect the integrity of the space’ (PPG15 Statement, 5.3.1). The massing, height and position of the proposed mezzanine extension and helical stairs would detract from the appreciation of the full volume, delicate proportions and skilful articulation of the original design of the banking hall.
We are also deeply concerned about the relationship between the proposed additions and the original horseshoe-shaped tellers’ desk. This original feature adds an interesting free-flowing figure to the predominantly rectilinear and orthogonal geometry of the banking hall. In addition to its detailing, the success of the desk is largely due to its restricted height and free-standing position. The proposed forms of the mezzanine extension and helical stairs would detract from, rather than enhance, the desk’s
valuable contribution to the hall’s plan form as a unique curvilinear form.

Infilling of roof top colonnades (ninth floor)
The Society objects to the proposed enclosure of the roof top colonnades.
The proposed infilling of the roof top colonnades would result in a major change of a vital part of the Grade II* Listed building. Of considerable height and occupying an entire urban block on its own, the Listed building has a very prominent presence within the urban fabric. Therefore the skilful articulation of its massing and the vertical completion of its volume are of high significance both in conservation and in cityscape terms. The hollow nature of these colonnades is probably their most distinctive and significant aspect: they visually lighten up the top level of the building, whilst they still retain the ‘classical’ character of its massing and detailing by providing a consistent roof line. As these colonnades can be seen from a number of ground-level, and several higher-level, viewpoints around the building (PPG15 Statement, 7.3.13), the proposed infilling of its roof top colonnades would have a detrimental impact on both the appreciation of the Listed building and the cityscape.

The Society is also deeply concerned about the actual design of the proposed infilling. The drawings that present this part of the proposed scheme demonstrate the great extent to which the new structures will result in a cramped combination of new and old fabric that leaves very little room for the appreciation of the original structure of these elegant colonnades.

Enclosure of the light well

The Society objects to the proposed enclosure of the light well in its current form.
We have no objections in principle to the proposed enclosure of the light well with a lightweight transparent roof that would be naturally ventilated.
However, according to the submitted scheme, the new roof would be inserted at the level of the roof of the roof top colonnades. We believe that this could be visible from neighbouring buildings through the roof top colonnades (which, as discussed above, we believe should not be infilled)and would therefore be an obtrusive new feature at the highest point of the Listed building. Again, this would have a detrimental impact on both the appreciation of the Listed building and the cityscape.
We would expect that the insertion of a lightweight transparent roof would be at the level of the ninth floor, that is, right above the top edge of the light well. This would restrict the visual impact of the new element and maintain the existing hierarchy as far as the roof massing and the special role of the two colonnades are concerned.
Intermediate floors

The Society is concerned about some of the design decisions concerning the arrangement of hotel bedrooms on the intermediate floors. We believe it is important that all new design matches the design quality of the historic building as this is reflected in its high Listing status at Grade II*. Therefore we believe that bending division walls should be avoided and new spaces should retain the clear geometry of the Listed building.
We hope our comments will be of help and taken into consideration. We would greatly appreciate if you kept us informed of any future developments of the case.Should you require some clarification on any of the above, do not hesitate to contact me.

Remit: The Twentieth Century Society was founded in 1979 and is the national amenity society concerned with the protection, appreciation, and study of post-1914 architecture, townscape and design. The Society is acknowledged in national planning guidance as the key organisation concerned with the modern period (see
Annex to PPG15), and is a constituent member of the Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies. Under the procedures set out in ODPM Circular 09/2005, all English local planning authorities must inform the Twentieth Century Society when an application for listed building consent involving partial or total demolition is received, and they must notify us of the decisions taken on these applications.

Yours sincerely
Dr Christina Malathouni

Henry Owen-John, North West Planning and Development Director,
English Heritage
Professor Neil Jackson, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool

It seems that the council planners had deliberatly not contacted the c20 society the statuary consultees on c20 architecture of who I am a member and have elisted their help.

It is evident from correspondencewhy they did not wish to consult them.

I have raised a complaint to Joe Anderson and the CE over the way the planning application was, I feel deliberatly buried in the Xmas snow. There is one every year. The C20 has a lot of wieght behind it and we thank them for their kind attention over a matter as significent as the redevelopment of Martins Bank Buildings described by them in their visit in 1988 as the finest bank building in Europe.

It is of great concern to us all. Martins with its slave trading iconography carved on the building by Herbert Tyson Smith, and the links through Gresham Bank(hence the Liver Bird and the Grashopper as emblem). The Greshams who were slave trading financiers merged and were subsequently taken over by Martins and then Barclays( with, their wartime links).

The planning application goes no-where in explaining the magnitude of this historic structure.
Liverpool City Council Planning Department should be seen to be creating a level playing field so that we the public can see what is happening. Without this visibility it could be construed that meetings behind closed doors are what truly happens with Liverpool's planning applications for buildings of historical importance. planning objections need to be in by 2nd Feb
All in all, this is of importance to all who care passionatly about Liverpools history. We welcome bringing this building of such architectural significance to the the publics attention.
The argument will be to get this developed and in use but they have deliberatly chosen to change its use from the purpose it was actually built for.......not once have the current owners tried to re-open it as.......A Bank.

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