Saturday, 13 April 2013

Blackmore: Bull Planning Applications

View of The Bull from the green
which could be lost if plans go ahead
to build semi detached house in beer garden

Proposals to build on a pub garden in a historically sensitive area have been made.

On Thursday (11 April 2013) residents in Blackmore received a letter from the Parish Council to advise that Brentwood Borough Council had received a planning application which involves “amendments to the main building and the erection of two new [semi detached] dwellings in the garden area”.  These proposals have been rumoured for some while and has created a “depth of feeling”, to quote the letter, among some residents who have campaigned to keep the premises open as a public house.  The letter states that residents’ “thoughts and observations regarding this planning application are crucial … good or bad”.

‘This is Essex’ website published an article on the same day:  It says the present owner wishes to alter the public house, removing the alterations made in 1975 – the cellar extension and WCs (document A below) - and to build two cottages in the beer garden.

The Brentwood Council website reports the application for the ‘erection of two dwellings and car barn, alterations to listed building “The Bull” public house’ with 18 documents attached, dated 4 April 2013 ( ).  A pictorial overview of the proposals is given here .

The Bull Inn and its gardens is one of the most significant premises lying at the heart of the village in a conservation area.  The present owner purchased the premises from a pub chain in 2010 but failed to reopen it for the purpose it was designated.  Not a drop of beer has been sold over the main bar or village bar since May that year, and it is understood the owner has converted the private first floor of the premises and gutted the public ground floor.  (See document A ). The premises have been vacant since.  It is unsurprising that villagers hold a “depth of feeling”.  Although the owner makes assurances over the future community use of the building, ‘This Essex’ reports that the plans do not include the retention of The Bull as a drinking establishment.

[The Blackmore Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan (2008), to which I contributed as a resident and amateur local historian, is on the Brentwood Borough Council website ( ).]

The Bull's rear exterior
In its historical context the Bull Inn is Grade II listed and was, according to James Bettley (in Buildings of England. Essex. (2007)), two houses dating from the 15th / 16th century.  Almost certainly it has been a public house in continuous use for at least 400 years.  I have found records of people staying at The Bull in the first decade of the seventeenth century. In 1607, the baptism of Maria Lanes “born at Wm Cooke’s of ye Bull” is recorded in the earliest parish register (which commenced in 1602).  In the following year Thomas Fowlsham appeared before the Archdeaconry Court charged for being “found with a Scotch woman alone in his chamber at the Bull”.  Conjecturally the number of drinking establishments may reflect the fact that until 1527 Blackmore had an Augustinian Priory, the remnants of which are used as the parish church, and visitors came to Blackmore requiring accommodation and sustenance.  Claims that The Bull could date back to 1385 might be true, even if the building we see today is of a later date. 

Until recent times the ancient pub has been a draw to visitors.  Many people in Essex who know Blackmore speak of The Bull, and are dismayed to hear that it is currently closed.

The Bull public house, Church Street
(Photographed in 1974)
The overriding importance of The Bull, in Church Street, is that it was probably the first encroachment on a medieval village green which anciently stretched with open views from the duck pond to the modern-day Holly House in Blackmore Road.  In later years the western side of the green was built on: Crosse House (1634), the Prince Albert (1757), the school (1877), 1-4 Blackmore Road (1913) and White House and Holly House (1968), the latter being replacements of condemned nineteenth century cottages.  The only standing building older than The Bull is the adjacent Swan House (14th century).  The view from the grassed area of the green, as current residents recognise it, to the rear of The Bull has remained a vacant area of grassland.  The site is of significant historic importance and value.  It is therefore vital to protect the ancient green from further encroachment of dwellings. 

If the planning application was pursued there should be an expectation of a full archaeological investigation.  This does not appear to have been mentioned in the plethora of documents.

Visually the houses which surround The Green, as it is recognised today, form a mix of both historic and infill properties.  The visual pleasure is the varied styles and building lines on three sides of The Green and the unimpeded and continuous view across the green and beer garden to the higgledy-piggledy arrangement of the rear of the Bull Inn.  To infill the last open space to the east of The Green would create an estate type arrangement where a new and unwanted large neighbour jostles for attention.  Apart from being in the wrong location the proposed dwelling is quite simply too large.  (This document shows the proposed houses: ). This site is key to The Green.  Whilst other new premises around The Green over the last decade may not be ideal in design and scale they do not detract badly from the overall appearance.

The Parish Council encourages that letters are written to:

Kathryn Matthews
Planning Department
Brentwood Borough Council
Town Hall
Ingrave Road
CM15 8AY

Quoting reference 13/00250/FUL & 13/00251/FUL

1 comment:

Judi Wood said...

An excellent resume Andrew.
I especially note that an archeological survey would be necessary should the planning application be pursued .
The village seems to be totally against building on this very special open space in our conservation area, and want the pub to return to it's former use as a pub / restaurant .
There are now 1433 signatures on the petition to save the Bull...from villagers, old customers and visitors who don't want to see the environment of Blackmore destroyed, and who want the Bull to reopen.