Sunday, 21 April 2019

Couple want to rebuild house destroyed in blaze

Couple want to rebuild house destroyed in blaze

A COUPLE are seeking permission to demolish and rebuild their historic riverside home after it was gutted in a fire.

Louise and Benedict Warner, who own The Boathouse, off High Street, Goring, say their insurers have condemned the 19th-century property as structurally unsafe after the blaze on March 2 last year.

The fire broke out in a thatched roof at the southern end of the timber-framed building and quickly spread throughout until flames could be seen from as far away as Didcot.

Passers-by called 999 and at least seven crews from across Oxfordshire and Berkshire worked throughout the night to contain it. They spent much of the following day cooling the debris with water to stop it reigniting.

One wing of the five-bedroom house was almost entirely destroyed while supporting elements like joists and rafters were weakened by the flames and water damage.

Initially it was hoped that the property had been saved but it was then deemed uninhabitable.

Now the Warners, who moved to the area from London in 2017, want to build a two-storey replacement dwelling with a footprint of 487 sq m, a similar size to the old house, but with six bedrooms instead of five.

It would have a master bedroom and two guest rooms along with living rooms and a working boathouse on the ground floor plus three additional bedrooms within the central roof space.

The building would be set 12m back from the river and would be slightly taller than the old one because of the need to reduce the flood risk by raising the floor.

It would be surrounded by terraces overlooking the River Thames and would be arranged in a series of pitch-roofed blocks connected by flat-roofed sections.

Anderson Orr, the Warners’ architect, says the new design is influenced by the rectangular shape and low profile of the previous house and would also have gables fronting the River Thames.

It would be built in red brick and flint in order to blend in with Goring’s conservation area and clad in blackened timber “as a hint to its unfortunate recent history.” The four roofs over the living areas would be tiled but, as before, the boathouse roof would be thatched with additional thatch on the sides.

The architect says the design “takes references from the original boathouse in terms of its traditional materiality, layout and form while providing contemporary detailing and modern living spaces that take advantage of the views out of the site”.

The couple’s agent JPPC adds: “The design... clearly expresses the form of the original building but in a contemporary manner to represent and reflect a new chapter in the history of the site. While the use of thatch is not typical of Goring, it nevertheless creates a noteworthy feature and creates a statement of architectural distinction and plays on the rural context.”

South Oxfordshire District Council planning officers warned the plans were likely to be recommended for refusal because of the need to preserve “the distinctive character and appearance” of the site.

However, the couple have since scaled back the scheme in line with their advice.

Goring Parish Council doesn’t object to the application but says the use of thatch on the boathouse sides would be inappropriate.

The district council’s conservation officer says there is no need to build a replica of the old house and the modern design preserves its character, although windows in the thatched roof should be removed.

She says: “The nod to the thatch on the existing building is appropriate and relevant and the contemporary finish is novel and exciting. I acknowledge that it is unusual but consider this an opportunity to explore something new.”

The damaged property was built in 1894 and extensively refurbished before being sold to the Warners for £2.83 million.

It was once owned by explorer Charles Gardiner, after whom the village’s Gardiner recreation ground is named, and later by Frederick Shoolbred, who owned Thames Bank in Thames Road.

The house is immediately upstream from Goring sorting office, formerly the boathouse of inventor Samuel Saunders, who pioneered the Consuta method of boatbuilding.

It is still subject to a covenant with Mr Saunders’s estate that it must not be used for commercial purposes.

The district council will decide the application by April 3.

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