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SWT intervenes to safeguard historic water towers

26 January 2023 : Council news, Planning and development

Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) Council has taken direct action to protect two Grade II listed water towers at Rockwell Green, near Wellington.

Work to secure the perimeter of the site and to safely remove overgrown vegetation that threatened the historic fabric of the towers commenced Monday, 16 January.

SWT undertook the work in default following inaction by the current owner to maintain the site. SWT has engaged with the owner since 2021 and was compelled to serve an amenity order under Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 in November last year.

The history of the towers dates back to the early 1870s when Wellington suffered an epidemic of enteric fever, which led to the formation of the Wellington Local Board of Health in 1873. In response to an enquiry into the quality of Wellington's water supply, the first tower designed by architect Edward Pritchard, was built in 1885 using locally made red bricks.

As demand for mains water increased, the neighbouring Art Deco tower was constructed from concrete by Rolfe and Raffety between 1934 and 1935. The towers were listed by Historic England in 1987.

Ownership of the towers eventually passed to Wessex Water who sold them at auction in 2013 to a private individual on the premise of being converted to residential use. However, the towers have since remained vacant and increasingly at risk from neglect.

Executive Member for Economic Development, Planning and Transportation, Cllr Mike Rigby, said: “We'll always try to work with owners to safeguard our heritage assets, but we won't hesitate to use the range of enforcement powers available to us when listed properties of national importance are put at risk.

“Regrettably, given the owner's failure to comply with the Section 215 notice issued at the end of last year and despite affording ample opportunity to comply, we were obliged to undertake the necessary clean-up works directly, the cost of which will be recovered from the owner.

“Going forward, I sincerely hope the owner now takes responsibility for these highly individual structures and makes good on the intention to convert the towers whilst preserving their historic character.”