Historic railway works site must not be bulldozed

Vital heritage: Wolverton Railway Works
Vital heritage: Wolverton Railway Works

Government history buffs have slammed the development of Wolverton Works because it would derail the unique history of the town.

The last-minute ruling from Historic England comes as MK council is due to consider a planning application to build 300 new houses and a budget supermarket on the former railway engineering site.

The government advisory body states the Wolverton Railway Works, which employed hundreds of local families over 150 years, is of major historical significance.

Developer St Modwen plan to bulldoze many of the original buildings to make way for their £100 million regeneration project.

But Historic England states: “The extent of the demolition proposed is such that the site would lose virtually all of its architectural and historical special interest.”

This would cause “substantial harm” to the conservation area, the report adds.

The only buildings St Modwen plans to preserve are the Grade II listed Royal Train Shed, Reading Room and New Works.

But these would become “isolated fragments” of history if the rest are bulldozed, states Historic England.

The report also questions the need for more housing, saying it would be of “limited benefit” because the site is not allocated for housing in the local plan.

It dismisses the developer’s argument that converting and reusing the existing buildings would not be possible or viable.

Demolition should be a last resort, it rules.

The report concludes: “The Works is a very complex and difficult site where there is a clear need for regeneration. In our view this should be heritage led and focus on the retention and reuse of the historic buildings on the site.”

The people of Wolverton spoke out at a public meeting on Tuesday to agree their town’s history should be preserved.

Many of the residents at the meeting had worked at the rail works themselves or had generations of family who had worked there, said Future Wolverton spokesman Simon Bennett.

“People are certainly in favour of the economic boost the St Modwen development would bring to the town. But they don’t want to lose the heritage,” he said.

The planning application is due to be considered in December.