Hoteliers in North Wales facing retrospective planning issues.

Article 4 directives

According to Chris Dearden for BBC Wales News on 28th Feb, hoteliers in the North Wales town of Llandudno are facing the prospect of having to replace windows, (previously replaced) because they didn’t have permission! Retrospective planning issues are a huge concern for hotel owners, who rely on maintaining energy efficiency to increase profits.

Obviously the owners are worried about the costs associated with the replacement, particularly now with the economy being quiet but also because they seek to ban a material (PVCu) and the retrospective nature of this proposal going back 30 years!

The question is “have planners become detached from modern life or have the owners of listed properties blatantly disregarded regulations?”

Well, most towns and cities have planning requirements for Listed properties, Article 4 directives, and conservation areas. Mostly they follow the lead of English Heritage whose job it is to preserve the historic fabric and can only recommend timber products or secondary glazing. Therefore if hoteliers or property owners have chosen to proceed with unauthorised refurbishments which are against the planning requirements, can they or anyone really complain? I think not.

However, seen from the other side of the fence, planners appear to building owners, to be totally unsympathetic to their requests for improvements for better insulation against heat loss and reduced maintenance costs. Many of these old buildings lose heat at an astounding rate because they were single glazed, and the original windows too draughty or inoperable.

This “stubbornness” has led many owners to proceed with unapproved casement styled PVCu double glazing in place of the sash windows most of the Victorian buildings would have had originally. The introduction of casement windows, has a serious impact on the buildings aesthetics, the street scene and potentially the lives of those occupying the property, (irrespective of the material the new windows are made from).

Here’s why,

Casement windows are cheaper to manufacture than sliding box sash windows and if the original box frame is left insitu (along with the existing architraves etc) and the new window is fitted within the old frame (where the two sashes were), then the installation costs are significantly less too.

This method is common place and has created much of the anti PVC lobby, when actually it’s the style, design and installation method which is hideous, not the fact something is made from PVCu.

This style of window tries to recreate the style of sash by having splitting the window across the middle, with one half opening and the other fixed. But these create new problems.

  • Firstly if the top half is opening then it creates a problem for people to get out of, in an emergency faced with a fixed pane of glazing.
  • If the bottom half opens then it may help in an emergency but creates an issue if children open the lower half, especially in upper floor bedrooms.
  • The fixed upper half of the window traps in stale air, so rooms cannot get the benefit of purge ventilation.

Casement windows will never replicate the style nor elegant proportions of sash windows.

So perhaps the solution for the council in conservation areas (not Grade I or II listed properties), is to allow owners the opportunity of reduced maintenance bills that PVCu permits, but insist the properties are fitted with authentic sash windows that are “virtually identical to their timber originals”, thereby retaining the character of the buildings Llandudno is known for rather than banning a perfectly good material 30 years after the event!

What is your view, is it too late for the council to act, are they resonable or should the hoteliers have done the job right in the first place?

Find out the latest from the local MP here

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