Things are changing rapidly on the terraced streets that lie between Melbourne Road and Spinney Hill Park. If you take a walk along Darley or Derwent Street you can’t fail to notice that a number of the houses have turned grey – they have recently been covered in grey cladding, as part of a home insulation programme. A grant-promoted scheme which means the work is carried out at no cost to the homeowner. On Darley Street, 11 homes have been so affected and this activity is definitely ongoing.
These 19th-century terraced houses are renowned for both their elegant and attractive design incorporating many unique architectural features. Not least being the beautiful sweep, a red brick terrace provides many a townscape. Highfields schools regularly bring groups of schoolchildren to admire and appreciate their local area.
Alas, this area is under threat, as the grey blocks offset the vista and in many cases are obliterating attractive features such as window and door pediments, detailed brick courses and decorative roof eaves. There has also been damage to the guttering.
Do we know enough about the long-term effects of cladding? While bricks breathe, we are all aware of how dampness can get underneath plasterwork and cause permanent damage.
Leicester Civic Society has been in contact with Leicester City Council and despite ‘it appears that there has been a breach of planning control.’, it seems there is little the Council will do to control what is happening. Instead placing the emphasis on local residents to take any legal action. Highly concerningly, they go on and say ‘It is not an offence to carry out development without planning permission’.
It is of course right and understandable that home insulation is important, especially given the climate crisis and the high costs of energy. How then do we balance what is happening with conservation and heritage considerations? Alas, these streets are outside the Spinney Hills Conservation Area and are not afforded that protection. It seems that many, many more houses will presently go grey – new scaffolding has recently been erected on Derwent Street – and that this area will lose its beautiful character and become terraced streets of a jumble of grey and brick.
Surely there is a way for heritage conservation and home insulation to work in harmony? Leicester Civic Society is very concerned about the effects this unregulated work is having on the area and urges a more robust response be taken by the Leicester City Council Planning Enforcement team.