St Osyth Priory Essex
Whilst the proposals within the applications will assist in the conservation, preservation and restoration of the most historic site in Tendring they will represent change. However, it must not be forgotten that history is change and that carefully managed and considered changes will stand the test of time and become part of the much loved landscape of the future.
The decision making process will involve the balancing of the positive aspects of the applications with the negative effects and the setting these in the context of the public benefits that would flow from the proposals.
A key benefit of the proposals is that the historic Priory buildings and gardens will be retained by one owner and one management regime. Development in the Park will also remain in single ownership, with one freehold covering all new buildings. The proposals are for the family to oversee the restorations and be responsible for the short and long term maintenance of both the Estate and its surroundings. The s106 provides for the phased restoration of the buildings and the landscape which is proposed to be managed under a High Level Stewardship scheme administered by Natural England.
The proposals will assist in securing the future of the irreplaceable heritage assets of the St Osyth Estate and they will deliver a range of other benefits including:
- The Statement of Heritage Significance has identified the exceptional Evidential, Historic, Aesthetic & Communal value that the historic fabric holds and the conservation of this fabric will allow these values to be retained for this and future generations.
- Opening to the public will allow these values to be better understood and appreciated. This will enrich the lives of the young and old alike, providing an aesthetic and educational resource that will build local pride it the quality of the historic and natural surroundings – improving quality of life.
- The visitors’ centre will become an alternate focus for village and district life with its tea shop and function suite providing a high quality meeting place or venue.
- The St Osyth Conservation Area is an important district designation. The Priory whilst of exceptional significance, in its current state of disrepair with structural scaffolds erected awaiting repairs and fencing in place to protect the public it is not currently able to realise its full potential for enhancing the quality of the Conservation Area. The restoration of the Estate which covers approximately three quarters of the Conservation Area, will enhance it as a whole and act as a catalyst to future improvements across the Conservation Area, thereby bringing forward heritage-led regeneration.
- The Priory Estate is a unique truly ancient heritage asset that possess in abundance natural and man made beauty, history, legend and iconic architecture that has the ability to assist in the improvement in the image and perception of the district to the region and further afield through its photogenic qualities. If restored the benefits to the District would be very significant, through being a fantastic case study for the work of the District, in assisting in the marketing of the District and encouraging new business and jobs.
- Cumulatively the proposals in total would lead to approximately 332 residential dwellings, including 12 units, which will be used for holiday accommodation. Further to these elements new commercial development will be implemented to attract more visitors to the Priory. Much needed local housing will be provided which will assist with affordability. Although no affordable housing is being proposed as part of the application, the additional housing in the area and the tenure mixes means there will be a variety of new properties on the market. The additional housing will indirectly improve affordability and choice for local people
- The enabling development proposals at St Osyth Priory will provide a significant sum of money, which will substantially contribute to reducing the Conservation Deficit of these nationally important heritage assets.
- The proposals will make a significant contribution to rural economic regeneration and provide greatly improved employment opportunities in the short, medium and long terms. The many benefits of heritage led regeneration are well recognised as being able to benefit local businesses in the area.
- The proposals set out in Applications 1-6 will deliver a range of high quality and appropriate housing which is sympathetic to the historic environment in which it is set. The development proposals have been extensively tested for a variety of environmental impacts and will lead to an extensive range of ecological improvements being achieved. The proposals also offer the opportunity to restore an historic landscape, which has been greatly disturbed over the last century by the quarrying of the site.
- The proposals will repair the historic building and the surrounding environment at St Osyth Priory. The restoration works will benefit both the current generation but also importantly will preserve the St Osyth Priory Estate so that this and future generations will also be able to enjoy these unique heritage assets.
- The proposals will enhance the biodiversity and nature conservation aspects of the area and improve the habitat for protected species. The proposals have secured the promise of a grant offer from Natural England through High Level Stewardship.
- The restoration of the Park will create a valuable green space that can be used by visitors and residents of the holiday cottages for walking and quiet recreation that will improve health and the appreciation of the historic and natural environment.
- restoration of the larger mineral extraction pits to lakes that complement historic design
- de-silting the historic ponds and re-stocking with fish
- woodland management to improve and extend the life of the remaining veteran trees
- planting in excess of 50,000 trees
- installing fencing to help control the wild deer
- using cattle grazing to manage grassland in a more sensitive manner that will encourage biodiversity
- returning arable land to pasture using non-commercial grass seed mixes that are prized by Natural England and more rich in flora
- habitat enhancement measures to encourage bird breeding
- new areas of habitat creation, restoration and a conservation management plan for the Park to enhance habitats for its all rich and diverse wildlife
The proposals also accord with the Council’s Tourist Strategy 2010- 2016, which seeks additional tourist attractions and higher quality tourist accommodation. The proposals will provide an exceptional and unique tourist attraction of National significance and will therefore attract visitors from across the country, with specific benefits being:
- a significant increase in the number of tourists visiting St Osyth, boosting revenue for local tourist attractions, accommodation providers and businesses
- a range of new local employment opportunities in the tourism, hospitality, construction industries
- extending Tendring’s traditionally strong tourist season, increasing spending by visitors in the area
- new high-quality housing that will be complement the historic surroundings and meet local need as identified within the Council’s Local Plan
The existing owners, who have a proven track record of being responsible owners of heritage assets, will continue to live on the estate and manage the stewardship of the significant place as a coherent entity. The family will ensure that the various attractions that permit the varied public access are set up and operated. For example attractions could include:
- A visitor centre within and adjacent to the historic walled garden, with improved access directly from the Colchester Road including a small tea room/café and souvenir shop
- The walled garden laid out as an attractive garden and utilised for horticultural plant sales
- Access to various parts of the gardens such as the Monks Cemetery, Topiary and Rose gardens
- Guided tours for larger groups around the estate including the parkland and the historically important Nuns Wood to understand its historic development and design
- Guided tours for larger groups around the monastic estate buildings to understand their function and to better appreciate the architecture and craftsmanship
- Wedding and conference facilities in the various licensed parts of The Priory such as the grand first floor Banqueting room, the large ground floor drawing room and the old chapel. In addition, access to the extensive grounds including the adjoining Topiary and Rose gardens
- Overnight stays in the various on site accommodation, in conjunction with the wedding or conference facilities
- Holiday lets in the proposed new parkland follies and historic core buildings and precinct as per Landmark and National Trust
- Longer term rentals of estate cottages and buildings, for both residential and commercial use
- Fishing and other country pastimes
- Educational tours for County, District and local schools
- Free access to members of the local parish church to conduct a St Osyth Day service
- An annual village fete