Letter: Design must fit in with surroundings

First published in Opinion

Design must fit in with the surroundings In the ‘Within Living Memory’ (Gazette, December 13), Pat Hovey and Trevor Hughes recall the Kent riverbank north of Stramongate Bridge.

I, too, recall Pickles' wool warehouse, particularly the huge bales of wool being loaded in Beezon Road.

However, compare that photograph with the scene today and you get some idea of what has been lost.

The residential building referred to in this article is a prime example of the inappropriateness of many modern developments. The simple honesty of the old buildings has been replaced by a plethora of pyramid-topped turrets and stubby crow-step gabled dormers.

Likewise, the strangely shaped ‘Box’ erected behind the Castle Dairy (part of Kendal College) is doubtless an architectural gem, but sticks out like a sore thumb.

This is not a question of personal taste. Both these buildings are inappropriate to the surroundings and should never have been approved, particularly in a historically promoted town such as Kendal.

The Riverside development because of its stifling overdesign, the misshapen Box because it is clad with sawn slate, fine in Windermere or Ambleside, but alien to the limestone of Kendal.

Elsewhere we are assailed by alien design features, such as Mansard roofs (Sandes Avenue), round towers (Windermere Road) and Mediterranean-style balconies. In Milnthorpe, the new Booths is over-dimensioned, being almost as high as the church tower, although only a one-story building.

These are all recent buildings, but I am not suggesting Victorians were not guilty of many of these faults also.

As a geologist, alien stone types always strike me forcibly. For example, common exotics are purple Welsh slate and flint gravel, both sold in large amounts by builders' merchants these days and appearing in gardens and driveways all over the town. Flagstones may now come from as far away as India and jar with local stones.

One might have thought that a lesson would have been learned from previous mistakes, of which there are many, culminating in the hideous Sandaire House at Kendal, which is both overwhelmingly large and ugly.

These structures and the bulldozing of large areas of historic Kendal (Fellside and most of the yards) make ridicule of the status of Kendal as a conservation area.

Fortunately occasional new buildings are in tune with the surroundings. One example is the Wakefield Arms on Maude Street: unpretentious in design (it could be a barn conversion) and faced with limestone rubble, it fits in perfectly and shows that alien design is not a necessity for modernity.

Once things are lost, including the unique ambiance of a historic town like Kendal, few people realise their impoverishment.

Therefore, the Nostalgia page in the Gazette fulfils an admirable role in alerting people to previous mistakes and hopefully helping to advise the future.

Kent Brooks, Kendal

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