Barking Magistrates’ Court plans raise heritage concerns

Barking Magistrates' Court in East Street

Barking Magistrates' Court in East Street - Credit: Archant

Plans to convert the former Barking Magistrates’ Court into 13 flats and a restaurant have come up against heritage campaigners.

Architect's sketch of Barking Magistrates' Court redevelopment plans

Architect's sketch of Barking Magistrates' Court redevelopment plans - Credit: Archant

The application for the Grade II-listed building in East Street includes a new six-storey building consisting of retail floor space with 24 flats above it.

It reads: “The approach has been to create high quality, modern, sustainable apartments which are sensitive to the listed nature of the magistrates’ court.

“This new residential-led development aims to positively enhance the local area through high quality architecture and urban design.”

‘Substantial harm’

However, the plans have not impressed the Victorian Society, which campaigns to conserve Victorian and Edwardian architecture.

Conservation adviser Kathy Clark wrote to the council saying: “The loss of the building’s principal rooms, which are important both aesthetically and historically, would cause substantial harm.”

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Concerning the proposed extension to the courthouse, she wrote: “The new block does not respond to the current building in terms of its design, colour or proportions. The features that define the listed building should provide a context for the new design.”

However, an independent report by historic building consultants Purcell, which was commissioned by the developers, backs the plans based on the retention of most of the old building’s features and the new build being sited in an area already characterised by modern development.

It concludes: “The proposals have been assessed to retain all features which are of significant heritage merit within the structure.”

A decision on the plans rests with the council’s development control board.

The building was constructed in 1893 and used as public offices and a library until the 1950s when it became a courthouse.

In 2011 it was closed under a £58million cuts programme that saw 147 courts shut in England and Wales.

It remained disused until it was bought by developer Chrisfys Properties.