News that Wessex Water is to auction Rockwell Green’s distinctive water towers has prompted a mixed reaction in the local community. For some, the sale promises a much-needed redevelopment of both the towers and the site; for others it signals a possible erosion of privacy if the towers are sold and converted into living accommodation.
The two towers – one dating from the late 19th century and still crowned with its original weather vane, the other more recent concrete tower built in the 1930’s – are to be auctioned on 25th February at Taunton Racecourse. The current owners, Wessex Water, are selling off 20 lots of redundant properties and sites across the south west, including old pumping stations and reservoirs. The towers are expected to attract interest but it is accepted that they would need a ‘Grand Designs’ type of investment – and planning consent – to convert them for domestic use.
Local residents who live alongside the site expressed different views about its potential redevelopment. Sarah Warner, the owner of The Old Vicarage Bed and Breakfast next to the site, said, “I’m in favour of any project that will save the towers from long-term dereliction. The older tower is an English Heritage Grade 2 listed property and it would be good to see it brought back to life. It hasn’t been used since 1973 and there would be a huge amount of work to be done to make it habitable, but there’s lots of potential here.”
Liz Watts, who moved into a property very close to the towers only two years ago, is less enthusiastic. “Any change of use of these towers would affect my privacy and that of other residents whose gardens and living rooms would be overlooked. And there’s the problem of access. There are garages and an electricity sub-station right next to the towers that need access routes. Any new development would affect them. I will oppose very strongly any change of use for the towers, even though they are redundant.”
There’s evidence that old water storage facilities can be brought back to life and converted into unique living accommodation, given the right kind of investment. Wessex Water may be hoping to attract it when the towers come under the hammer; local residents may be hoping for a different outcome.