29 May 2022
Jim Forkin, chairman IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch
Saving Chester’s graving dock heritage ~ Public support is needed
IWA Chester and Merseyside Branch is intent on the full conservation of Chester’s historic graving dock, and continues to monitor the planning application 21/03441/LBC. This was submitted by Canal & River Trust to Chester City Council. The application is for retrospective listed building planning consent for work ‘completed’ in repairing a collapsed culvert. Located underneath a very busy public footpath, the culvert connects the old Graving Dock (dry dock) to a discharge point at the bottom of the lock to the Dee Branch canal. As its purpose is for draining the dock, it’s only used occasionally. The application includes work to provide ‘heritage matching’ cladding to the culvert outlet headwall – to blend with the adjacent stonework. The current sandbag headwall and modern circular pipe is recessed inside the old portal; (photo on the right below). This part of the job has yet to be completed.
Temporary Repair Completed
Granting of the application would make the ‘temporary repair’ that was undertaken in 2021 a permanent solution. As this will include the incomplete culvert outlet headwall, it’s in disregard of the heritage conservation of the dock. Moreover, it goes back on Canal & River Trust’s declaration that the dock would be returned to its original design. The branch has made representations to Canal & River Trust to ensure that the aesthetic and historic nature of the culvert outlet headwall is visually acceptable, which Canal & River Trust has agreed to implement.
Heritage Restoration Now Needed
With Chester now realising its role as a Historic Inland Port, recognised by the Maritime Heritage Trust and its European counterparts, this application needs to be revisited, and the Branch, along with other interested parties, has submitted an objection to this application. Despite these objections, the Planning Department of Cheshire West & Chester Council has still not appointed a Planning Officer for the case twelve months on, and the situation remains at an impasse.
The Branch has been in contact with the Council, awaits an Officer to be appointed, and will continue to press for the retention of the heritage conservation aspects of this historic building at the heart of the Chester waterways. Members of the public who are interested in preserving our Chester Heritage are invited to add their support.
Old Port Square, Chester, UK