Context 143 - March 2016

C O N T E X T 1 4 3 : M A R C H 2 0 1 6 37 ALISON HENRY Thatching appeals: recent experiences The results of two recent appeals confirm that the use of traditional thatching materials and methods make a positive contribution to the significance of listed thatched buildings. Historic England (formerly English Heritage) was recently involved with two appeals against refusal of listed building consent for a change of thatching material. Both appeals concerned Grade II buildings.Although Historic England was not a statutory consultee, the conservation officers had sought advice (in one case, after reading a previous Context article that I wrote on thatching) from the building conservation and research team about some of the technical aspects of the proposals. We considered that both cases raised important issues, and so we submitted written evidence and gave further evidence at the appeal hearings. Both appeals were dismissed. The lessons learned from these two cases will be of interest to conservation officers in other areas dealing with similar applications. They also have wider relevance to applications relating to other types of building materials, such as stone, slate or plaster, where a change of material is proposed. The fir st case (appeal reference APP/ J0405/E/14/2213476) related to Mulberry Cottage, 25 Spring Lane, Great Horwood, Buckinghamshire (AylesburyVale District Council [AVDC]).The proposal included removal of the existing spar coat (top coat) of long straw and recoating with a ‘mixed heads and butts cereal straw spar-coat in the long straw style’. The other case (appeal reference APP/ Y3940/E/13/2207654), concerned Park Cottage,Milton, East Knoyle, Salisbury (Wiltshire Council). Here the proposal was to remove a spar coat of combed wheat reed and replace with water reed. (Park Cottage was subject to two appeals.The first was allowed in 2014, but following a request by Historic England and Wiltshire Council for a judicial review, the decision was quashed and the appeal rerun in early 2015. It is the second appeal that is the subject of this article.) Contribution of materials to significance An important issue arising from these appeals is the con- tribution that a thatched roof makes to the significance of a listed building, and the degree to which authentic materials are important in maintaining that significance. It was initially difficult to determine exactly what material was intended to be used at Mulberry Cottage. The rather vague description of the proposal (‘re- thatching… with a mixed heads and butts cereal straw spar-coat in the long straw style’) did not specify whether wheat or triticale would be used. Nor did it specify the method of processing the straw. But the reference to ‘long straw style’ rather than simply ‘long straw’ implied some unspecified difference in material, technique or Mulberry Cottage, Great Horwood, Buckinghamshire, is a one- and-a-half storey, timber- framed cottage dating from the 17th century, with an 18th-century brick extension.The roof, thatched in long straw, is half hipped at one end and has eyebrow dormers on the front elevation. Although the thatch had suffered slippage due to poor workmanship, there was no water penetration and it still had several years’ life left in it.