Here’s the pick of your Letters to the Editor, as published in the April 4 edition of The Buteman.
Time to overrule decision
The saga about the Bute House Hotel windows reminds me of the ‘watchdogs’ who ban local events because of ‘health and safety’ when the Health and Safety Executive denies any concern. In this instance, the council ‘spokesperson’ has used the organisations funding the THI initiative as their excuse for refusing this application. Can the council show evidence that the present funding organisations - Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland, Argyll and Bute Council and LEADER - will disapprove of these windows, and refuse further investment?
The Heritage Lottery Fund wants to make a difference. With their investment, the heritage will be ‘in better condition’, ‘the local community will be a better place to live, work or visit’ and ‘the local economy will be boosted’. There are other criteria, but these four will surely be met if run-down properties are improved which could otherwise be abandoned.
I know there are instances where the council is part-funding replacement windows under THI, but this has not been mentioned in any of their statements regarding this issue. I think now is the time for all the councillors on the planning committee to speak to the applicant and Bute residents, get a feel for the local atmosphere and overrule their employees.
Matthew Williamson, Argyle Terrace, Rothesay
Hotelier guilty of ‘architectural vandalism’
Having quietly soaked up numerous comments from various sources on The Great Window Debate I have decided, at last, to haul my colours firmly to the top of the mast.
I stand resolutely on the conservation side of this argument and am delighted to learn that the people involved are being brought to task for what amounts to blatant architectural vandalism.
For too long the whole of the UK has suffered horribly from the post-war building trade, which has foisted onto the unwary and ignorant public all manner of technically and aesthetically inappropriate materials for pre-1919 structures.
This is largely an accident of history, as the First World War annihilated the tradesmen with the knowledge and skills needed for the maintenance of municipal, agricultural, and domestic buildings. After the Second World War the situation was even worse -into the resulting vacuum enter cement and plastic.
Unfortunately the conservation movement was caught napping and did not respond with equal and opposite force. Nowhere is this more glaring than in the window trade, or perhaps I should say “business”, as those uPVC folks have been laughing all the way to the bank for 40 years or more.
It was stated recently in this paper that it was “A saga Bute could well do without”. On the contrary, it is essential. One only has to stroll around Rothesay and surrounding areas and study the buildings to see what a hash has been made of window ‘improvement’. Yes, it absolutely is possible to tell from street level what is a proper window and what is not!
As for “rotten and draughty sashes” I would like to point out that more often than not the actual sashes are fine, it is the sills that are rotten, and any joiner worth his salt can easily make this repair. As for those draughts, get the sash cords and the window locks fixed, both fairly straightforward procedures!
For added heat retention, it is possible, with a little research, to fit sympathetic internal secondary glazing, and if you make them yourself you save money! Regarding outward appearance, manufacturers on occasion do attempt to reproduce the look of originals, but the proportions are often wrong, the panes lacklustre, and they always sport the usual harsh brilliant white mid-20th century paint finish), to say nothing of the immovable non-breathing components. The end product always fails to please. I totally agree with one correspondent who pointed out that neglect of original fabric by previous owners is the key issue. Regular maintenance is the easy bit.
There is more that could be said against the uPVC window (performance and ecological footprint), but they are simply inappropriate in old buildings and severely alter it’s charm and character and not for the better.
In this case, for once, the planning department is doing it’s job for conservation, and while it is true that many others have got away with it, all I can say is shame on previous council planners for being asleep at the switch or worse, turning a blind eye.
The fact that others seem to have slipped uPVC under the radar does not make it right, and I would be intrigued to learn exactly how this happens. I do have all sympathy and encouragement for anyone wishing to mend an ailing building, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.
In any case, we have to assume that the hotel was purchased in the full knowledge that it was going to require conservation treatment, in which case we shouldn’t really be having this discussion.
By definition, if someone takes on an old building then they also take on the responsibility to resurrect and maintain the integrity of that building in a manner appropriate to it’s era, and I might add, the law. I am therefore left to ponder an obvious point that seems to have been overlooked: why our elected representatives are openly supporting illegal, thuggish, and frankly arrogant behaviour by a member of the public?! Is anyone else out there beginning to grasp how Alice felt in Wonderland?!
Our built heritage matters. We are all caretakers, and yes, the look and character of old buildings absolutely has an effect on the overall atmosphere of a community, and it is my great hope that from now on council planners will firmly and consistently hold their ground.
It is most definitely not the council that has backed itself into a corner, but the Greenes and this is not an issue for which there is a ‘negotiated settlement’; rather, as another contributor so rightly put it, a substantial fine! The protagonists in this tale are in the wrong and that is the end of it.
Margaret Booth Homewood, Cnoc-an-Raer Manse, North Bute
We don’t need another Royal Hotel
Perhaps someone from Argyll and Bute Council would kindly explain why they are embarking on a potentially lengthy and certainly expensive civil/criminal pursuit of the proprietor of the Bute House Hotel for spending a considerable sum of money in an attempt to upgrade and improve his property?
While I accept there may be a technical breach of the law here, why is he being singled out for this draconian treatment when there is such a wide variety of window types throughout the entire conservation area?
I have no axe to grind; I have met Mr Greene only very briefly. While he obviously has commercial concerns he also seems to be interested in the appearance of Rothesay’s townscape.
The last thing this island needs is the Royal Hotel Mk 2! Surely a common sense compromise could be achieved.
I am in the unique and privileged position of chairing the Argyll and Bute Trust. The Trust regularly supports causes that struggle because Argyll and Bute Council funding is not available due to financial constraints. Where do they find the resources to pursue this Don Quixote adventure?
Dan Edgar, Toward View, 31 Ardbeg Road, Rothesay
Thanks for Erskine support
May I, through your newspaper, thank everyone who made a donation to my sponsored swim in aid of Erskine?
I raised £244 in cash and £220 was donated online. I was supposed to swim 64 lengths but in actual fact swam 128 lengths, so thanks must also go to the staff at Rothesay Leisure Centre just for counting the lengths.
Kiera Rutherford (age 9), 27 Bryce Avenue, Rothesay