Gillespies believe that reusing the steps and balustrading is likely to compromise the integrity and overall quality of any new scheme proposed. Repairs and replacements to the urns and balustrading over the years has left the remaining elements of this feature patchy in terms of heritage quality; and also the granite steps are badly worn. If these elements were to be incorporated into a new high quality paving scheme of any kind they would look out of place and most likely ‘unattractive’ in appearance, because of the contrast between the old and the new. However, the detailed design process is also reviewing the possibility of re-using the granite blocks and steps as kerbs ensuring the sustainability of materials and an element of historical continuity within the town centre. Where it is not possible to re-use materials such as the balustrading, these features will be removed and new locations for their use/display will be considered.
The existing steps along High Row are in some ways hazardous and would not comply with modern standards and guidance. Retention of the steps would conflict with guidance in ‘Part M’ of the Building Regulations 2002 and the DFT guidance on ‘Inclusive Mobility’ due to the steepness of the steps, the riser ratios, the uneven finishes and the lack of delineation at the top of the steps for visually impaired pedestrians.
The railings are not particularly rare, nor key to reflecting Darlington’s heritage. However, Gillespies will look at the potential to reuse the existing railing within the new scheme and incorporate them into the overall street furniture palette.
The levels were not well executed in 1901 and now are beginning to look untidy due to general subsidence and wear and tear. Under the new proposals there is the opportunity to re-look at these levels in their entirety and reform the contours to provide neater, crisper paving details and levels that will create a more formal space and pedestrian environment that enhances the quality of the townscape. It would be more difficult to readdress these levels and details effectively if the proposed scheme works around the existing ballustrading and terrace arrangement.
With regards to Joseph Pease, Gillespies are proposing to relocate, subject to the necessary permissions, the statue to something approaching his original position, overlooking High Row. This is a prominent and focal location that reflects the importance of the statue in the town’s history. The scheme is using the historical precedent for its location, and it is felt that to position the statue on top of the public convenience, as proposed by Darlington Civic Trust, is not appropriate.
As part of the scheme’s consultation, Darlington Borough Council met with Darlington Civic Trust to discuss the concept scheme. The Council have extended further meeting invitations to Darlington Civic Trust.
12. Darlington Civic Trust has requested that the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to consider spot listing the High Row balustrading. English Heritage have inspected the site and will prepare their recommendation to DCMS. We expect a decision to be made by DCMS this year.
Appendix Ten - Cabinet report 16 November 2004 Darlington Town Centre Pedestrian Heart