Cofferidge Close, Stony Stratford. Under threat?

July 31, 2010

In February I jotted down the short history of this project which started its life as a brilliant contribution to the new built environment in this historical town, now an integral part of the new city of Milton Keynes.  I pointed out in some detail  many ‘retrogressive’ recent changes which seriously undermined the original strength and qualities. You are still able to see the frail patient walking about, an occasional smile still reveals some of the original attractive charm the patient possessed.

However, recently my attention was drawn to an exhibition in Stony Stratford and this web site displaying proposals for developing and improving this site and seeking public participation and involvement before submitting formal planning applications.

This apparent democratic and inclusive method has now become an almost text book approach for testing the waters and finding the best and cheapest route for most of the  developers to do what they are there for; build big, cheap, and make an quick exit with a neat profit.

The proposal is so ill conceived and poor that in all seriousness you can not even appraise it apart from saying that far from  preserving and enhancing the character of the area (a pre-requisite for any  proposal within a Conservation Area), this scheme would destroy it in all major aspects.

One sentence can adequately summarise this proposal. An attempt to insert a grossly oversized building in a beautifully crafted space in the heart of a sensitively redeveloped area. The huge mass of building is moored in a sea of enlarged  car parking and service areas, proposing to destroy the trees in the orchard which provides  pleasant walking routes through this park like well landscaped site. The directness of short cuts linking the little ally ways would be destroyed and  and the walk through the car park can hardly be compensated by planting few trees in left over spaces.

The best way to describe this broad daylight attempt of this ‘grab and run venture’ is the following analogy;

  • Imagine a pretty little ornate cage in a nicely decorated front room of an old thatched cottage with a lovely little singing bird. The bird lost a few feathers after a confrontation with a house cat when it escaped the cage through an open door, but survived and continued with well rehearsed melodies and preening the colourful plumage in this handsome spacious cage.
  • Suddenly the old owner of this bird was taken ill and had to go to a Nursing Home and the bird was sent to another house with a large bird cage which it was able to share happily with other similar birds.
  • After a while a new owner, another bird lover, came to live in this cottage. The owner loved the lovely little bird cage in the front room, but unfortunately had a large barn owl to look after. The owl was far too large for the cage and indeed the door. It managed to get in but found it difficult to move within it. The children from the neighbourhood who knew the singing, colourful bird came and apart from the initial thrill of seeing a big bird with funny head and round eyes, they missed the colourful singing bird and wanted it back.
  • The kind new owner did not want to disappoint the children and said, ” I tell you what! Tell me your three favourite colours and I would be happy to colour owl’s feathers in your favourite colour. If you like I will even mix two or three of the colours to make it even more cheerful. I also have a CD of the loveliest bird songs you can think of, and I will play it when you visit me.”
  • Fortunately the children were far too intelligent to go along with this ploy. The owner also saw that the owl would never fit in the cage and thankfully gave it away to someone with proper owl accommodation. He also bought another small pretty singing bird and all was well in the old cottage.

I hope the local residents would strongly object to this outlandish proposal and ensure that this idea is killed before it is even considered as a worthwhile project for any planning permission.

Unless we learn to appreciate and protect all the best of old and recently built environments around us, opportunistic profiteers would do their best to sell us things under the guises of doing us favours. Hopefully we are now mature enough to recognize the merits of what we have and know who the real beneficiaries of these false promises are likely to be.

23 Responses to “Cofferidge Close, Stony Stratford. Under threat?”

  1. Mat Says:

    Unfortunately you are correct in that this ‘consultation’ is more about pacifying local opinion rather than really listening to what we have to say. So at least the developers can say they consulted – even if they had no intention of doing what local people want.

    The owners of the site are intent on building a large supermarket (purportedly to be occupied by Waitrose) and increasing the number of car park spaces. It is hard to see how this will benefit local residents with the increased traffic this will generate. Yes the green space and established trees will be lost, so too will the present route through to the Market Square. And while probably only a few will mourn the loss of the red brick buildings (although MK Council have insisted the High Street frontage is retained) the loss of premises currently used by MK council for adult education courses is a real loss to the town.

    Were the glossy architects impressions anything like reality, they would show a traffic-choked car park with little space or safety for pedestrians and a few immature trees planted to compensate (sic) for the loss of the orchard. Instead they show spacious semi-empty carparks on a sunny day, parents and children strolling carefree across empty spaces with large established trees in the background. The reality is we’ll end up with a car park much like the one for Tescos at Wolverton.

    For some of my neighbours, the loss of the only supermarket in town for the duration of the building work will be a major blow as they do all their weekly shopping at Budgens.

    Depressingly – the fact is we have no choice. It will happen whether we like it or not. The benefits of this development are not intended to be for local residents but for the sites owner.

    • winslowhub Says:

      Sorry to note your pessimistic tones. You must not feel that all is lost as there is strength in numbers and joint action.
      I fail to see how a community like yours can not galvanise into an effective lobbying group and take your views where they are likely to count –
      possibly in future votes.

  2. When you first posted about Cofferidge Close I had not been to Stony Stratford for 40 years and was unaware of the development in “Cofferers Close”. I was therefore stimulated to make a detour to Stony on one of my visits to North Bucks and my overall opinion was that it was a good project, in keeping with the linear development of Stony Stratford, while adding a 20th century element to the organic growth of the centuries.
    I recently visited Wallingford and there discovered a rather intrusive Waitrose at the crossroads of what were once the small town’s main intersecting streets. Not a pretty sight at all.
    Stony Stratford at least deserves better.

    • winslowhub Says:

      I feel the Local Councils are finding it difficult to attract enough income from these small centres and this additional commercial letting space must be an attempt of solving this problem. You have looked in these issues, do you think it is the likely cause for the ‘speculative’ or ‘hostile’ planning bids. One hears that there is no smoke without a fire.

  3. Joss Says:

    I went through all the proposals and I give them a general thumbs up.

    However, I hope they reduce the quantity of MK Brick that blights everywhere.

    I used to live near Saffron Waldon, Essex. The town centre there was going downhill before Waitrose moved in with a huge car park.

    The town now boasts a huge twice a week market selling food, arts and crafts and so on, a high street shop network to be envious of and much more.

    This plan increases parking considerably (and if they built underground the new building could add even more). More car parking and the draw of Waitrose will help pull people into the town. The new housing down Watling Street will provide possible customers for the town.

    However, the town itself needs to take advantage of this. A larger better market, on the Market square, pedestrianisation of the high street on Saturdays, and so on.

    Of course, if they all sit around and just moan like you, the town will eventually die.

    • winslowhub Says:

      I am pleased that you saw all the proposals and have some apparently rational reasons for your liking. An ever growing car parking desire based on even stronger desire of consumption is bound to succeed in demolishing the heritage which the past generations have put together with care and attention. I will continue to moan and hope that others join me to stop this damaging attack on a community which deserves better.

      • Joss Says:

        That heritage you speak about was achieved by the demolition of an even earlier heritage – it is how we have ended up with such a diverse town; it incorporates layer upon layer from different centuries.

        This new proposal is but another layer. I cannot understand why people object to a new century putting its imprint upon an old century, especially as in the process it will get rid of the hideous building that is there and replace it with one that has a smaller footprint.

        Sadly, I have a suspicion that more red brick will be used in the new design – it is the plague of new towns and shows such lack of imagination. If there is a campaign, it would be to make sure that the red brick goes!

        Towns survive on the desire for consumption; without it they become barren and sterile. This is the entire reason why towns have grown up over centuries. Stony Stratford is teetering between success and failure. Tescos has done a huge amount of damage – the removal of an active market many years ago also did damage.

        Ironically, it maybe with the import of a brand like Waitrose that Stony Stratford can start a renaissance. Speaking to several high street traders, they are looking forward to this as they can envisage their traffic increasing – though they are worried about the transition period.

        If you want to see the town grow, become more vibrant and be able to continue to not only support but grow its heritage, you would support this proposal and any others that bring people IN to the town, preferably waving their cash around!

      • winslowhub Says:

        Thanks for your views. My own views are well illustrated in my Blogs and I am afraid, in no way can I support your misguided views.

  4. Julian Batham Says:

    please email any update. Thankyou

  5. winslowhub Says:

    As far as I understand the developers are hoping to submit a Planning Application in September. Meanwhile various meetings between them and the Local Authorities are taking place.
    I hope to keep you in touch.

  6. Terry Cook Says:

    The full planning application for redevelopment of Cofferidge Close was submitted on 25.01.11 and can be viewed on line at:

    Go to View Applications Online (Enter Public Access) Application Ref: 11/00143/FUL

    Direct link:

    • winslowhub Says:

      Thanks for the information. I am certain there are many admirers of the existing building who appreciate the high architectural merit it deserves and would hate to see it go. The designers of the atrocious proposals fail to see the significance of the surviving scheme but they would, wouldn’t they?

  7. Terry Cook Says:

    The planning proposal is to demolish Cofferidge Close so it’s not surprising that the developer wishes to rubbish the architectural merits of this clever urban design that fits modernity into a conservation area. The developer’s Heritage Report makes no mention of this context whatsoever but goes into great detail how one large supermarket on the site will fit in with the conservation area. A supermarket?

  8. Boz Says:

    Barton Willmore are the people that are dealing with the planning application for Cofferidge close, Stony Stratford. as you can find out their address is in Reading which is just up the road from Bracknell where Waitrose’s head office is, also if you look at new build waitrose stores that have recently opened you will find that Barton Willmore are or were the Planning applicants !
    So a Waitrose it will be ?
    although rumor has it Waitrose may pull out as it’s bad press to upset a local community and the car park may not be large enough, so Tesco’s or similar could step in because they don’t care who’s toes they tread on, so I would fully support a waitrose! if you don’t I think it could backfire on the community of Stony Stratford Big Style…………

    • winslowhub Says:

      Thanks for your interesting observations. I have heard similar things from other people. I am quite happy to approach Waitrose directly to air my views against a brutal and destructive planning application to demolish one of the prime and sensitive examples of modern design in a historical market town.

  9. Terry Cook Says:

    It’s not Waitrose. They looked at the site but rejected it because according to John Lewis development surveyor the size of the proposed supermarket was too big for them, didnt fit into Waitrose retail stategy for Milton Keynes area, and the parking was too limited. He said he could not see how a major food retail unit of that size could generate enough custom locally. The Waitrose rumour was encouraged to circulate in the community. The Agent is probably to talking to Tesco. For some reason that rumour isnt being encouraged to circulate.

  10. Tony Kaye Says:

    A new website (with a link to this excellent blog) has been created to give updates on the progress of the planning application for demolition and ‘re-development’ of Cofferidge Close. The Town Council and the majority of local residents want to see the existing buildings re-furbished and re-used, and the mature trees kept. It is felt there is no need for a much bigger supermarket in the centre of Stony, and there are major concerns about traffic and parking.

    Go to :

    for updates and more information on local reactions.

  11. J Frost Says:

    What a great idea, demolish Cofferidge but please don’t stop there. I am sure the bulldozers could be persuaded to nip up the road and do likewise to the Agora in Wolverton if we drop the drivers a drink. I am old enough to remember Cofferidge Close being built and I have always held the view that it is another miserable, dark, uninviting type of building that seemed to spring up without much thought or imagination.
    I notice all the pictures posted in support of keeping CC are all taken on nice bright sunny days but reality is somewhat different. On a wet evening the place gets even darker and even more depressing and not somewhere I would go by choice so why not re develop this eyesore and rejuvenate Stony before its too late.

    • winslowhub Says:

      Nice to hear your views I am certain there are many who share these thoughts. I am pleased that you think about the environmental issues and are a supporter of ‘bulldozer brigade’and owner of a pub or two to drop their drivers a non-stop supply of drinks, after all Milton Keynes is a large place with lots of modern places where sun does not shine all the time.
      Meanwhile, I assure you there are many who think that Cofferidge Close was one of the most sensitive imaginative schemes built in MK, a view luckily shared by recent announcement of listing of some of the housing there.
      (This thread of discussion is now closed as a cul-de-sac for further correspondence)

  12. Mark Day-Thomas Says:

    Why do people naturally assume that growth always means better… It doesn’t. Stony has a very vibrant community already… the majority of our wonderful shops are independant. Do we really need a another comglomerate taking trade from them…. or could people use the existing ones in Wolverton, Westcroft, The City Centre and the various retail parks such as Rooksly and Winterhill. Do any of these places have any historical backgrounds.. or attract visitors from all over ? We have Stony in bloom, the Christmas lights, Folk on the Green, Stony Live and many other attractions and activaties which will be lost if we follow the route of other towns. The Pubs and Restaurants are at bursting point… so why do we need to attract another multi national supermarket whose only motive is profit. Why do we need to have our town destroyed by some investment or pension company hoping to make a quick buck… and then leaving local people to it !

    • Terry Cook Says:

      This is a purely speculative development for the benefit of a single investor with no connection to or interest in Stony Stratford. No supermarket operator has signed up. It is dressed up as a public benefit when it could leave Stony paying the price in congested traffic and removal of the Town’s green space and 46 mature trees solely for the commercial gain of the owner, an Australian Bank.

      Cofferidge Close was bought in 2005 with the express aim of developing one large supermarket. If a more reasonable size development had been proposed then 450 people in Stony might not have objected to this application. It is the owners agents greed to maximize their profits with this out of scale proposal that has lead to total opposition.

  13. winslowhub Says:

    I feel sorry for Stony Stratford population who are living under thess repeated threats. I wish the building could be listed. It is worth pointing out that the recent listing of housing overlooking the old Orchard would be damaged by the changes in its immediate vicinity which can not be ignored by the Planning Authority.
    I hope this ridiculous proposal is thrown out for once and all.

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