LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Proposed changes to sixties retail building will replace what is a visual sore

Consultation event for redevelopment of Market Place, with (left) Gary Johns, from Gary Johns Archit

Consultation event for redevelopment of Market Place, with (left) Gary Johns, from Gary Johns Architects, talking to the public - Credit: Archant

I am an architectural historian with a specialisation in analysing how architecture reflects the social and economic development or decline of an environment, whether a farmstead or a large city port.

My practical survey work extends over Britain, Europe and the east coast of the USA.

From 1980 until 2005 I was a member of the City of Cambridge’s conservation and design panel, a group of professional architects, town planners and architectural historians that were required to assess all buildings and developments submitted to the city’s planning department. Our analysis is a statutory requirement to be presented to the elected members of the council’s planning committee. An advisory document, they could accept or decline our appraisals. Democracy deemed that we won some, and lost some.

Having lived in Ely for more than 40 years,

I obviously have more than passing interest in my home town. The proposed changes to the building range along the west side of Market Place excited me. The current appearance of the building is a visual sore, so it is good news that an architect and a developer are coming up with plans to improve it.

I visited the recent exhibition at Ely Museum and spoke with the architect. I was far from keen with the initial designs, but, hopefully, there will now be a period of adjustment. It is no easy task to re-clad an existing building as the basic construction has to remain.

Using my panel work, mentioned previously, I did a sequence analysis of the whole Market Place area. That is, I noted the ratios of height, elevation and proportional feature details. This provides a pattern to which new ideas may be imaginatively developed. The visuals suggested in the initial exhibition do not suggest a suitable building for such an important area of Ely. The panel would acknowledge that the design would present problems but that they would require a much more detailed submission. In the end, of course, it all depends on the in-depth decision of Ely councillors.

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