A NEW five-year plan to further preserve and enhance the historic character of Leicester’s New Walk area has been published by the city council.
The New Walk Conservation Area Management Plan sets out a range of actions and policies that will help further protect the historic buildings and improve open space in and around Leicester’s popular Grade II-listed Georgian promenade.
As part of the new plan, Leicester City Council will invest in improvements to the street scene and pocket parks in the area. It will also introduce new protections under planning law to help preserve the unique character of the New Walk Conservation Area.
Work is already underway to refurbish New Walk’s distinctive wrought iron lamp columns, with a unique Victorian example having been reinstated outside Leicester Museum and Art Gallery this week. The lamp column which was removed for safekeeping due to damage has been repaired and restored as part of a new package of investment.
This will also see decorative iron fencing, seating and bollards refurbished and repaired as well as works to improve the three main open spaces on New Walk – Museum Square, De Montfort Square and The Oval – to make them more welcoming to visitors.
At Museum Square, the existing paths will be resurfaced and seating will be improved. There will also be improvements to planting in the surrounding beds to provide year-round interest.
New trees have been planted at De Montfort Square and The Oval and proposals are being developed for improved planting, new footpaths and better access.
Signage will also be improved to raise awareness of the New Walk Conservation Area.
A more comprehensive Article 4 Direction has been introduced covering the entire Conservation Area. This will restrict permitted development rights, meaning that all properties will require planning permission for external alterations, such as adding porches, demolishing boundary walls and adding dormer windows.
The council will also aim to encourage the use of traditional materials, and wherever possible the refurbishment of original windows, door and other architectural features, as part of its pre-planning advice. New design guidance has been produced for potential development sites and the council is working with property owners to offer grant funding for restoring traditional features and removing visual clutter, such as redundant satellite dishes.
All future highways work in the New Walk Conservation Area will need to bring positive improvement to the character and appearance of the area by helping to minimise street clutter, maintain the use of sympathetic materials and remove visually intrusive road marking wherever possible. This will reflect the approach taken in the recently completed King Street improvement scheme.
Equipment has been installed on New Walk to monitor levels of illegal cycling and assess the impact on this long-standing issue of the recent major investments in high quality new cycle lanes on nearby London Road and Lancaster Road.
The new management plan has been developed by the city council with input from the Friends of New Walk. It also reflects feedback from members of the public who attended a series of events and workshops held last year to mark the fiftieth anniversary of New Walk being designated a conservation area.
Deputy city mayor and council heritage champion Cllr Adam Clarke said: “New Walk Conservation Area was one of the first in the country, being designated two years after the 1967 Civic Amenities Act, which legislated for the protection of the character of areas of historic interest.
"New Walk remains a jewel in Leicester’s crown and this wide-ranging management plan will help ensure that we continue to preserve and enhance the architectural heritage and unique character of this important part of the city.
“The management plan focusses on the Conservation Area itself, but we have already had major investment in King Street, London Road and Lancaster Road and we are already seeing their positive impact of these ambitious schemes.
“By working with local interest groups like the Friends of New Walk we can continue to improve this beautiful Georgian promenade and the heritage assets that enrich the area around it, ensuring that it continues to be an attraction for visitors and a part of the city that we can be proud of for generations to come.”
Peter Wilkinson, Chair of the Friends of New Walk said: “We warmly welcome this initiative. It is wonderful to see the continuing focus on preserving our heritage with real resources that will maintain and enhance the quality of the whole area."
A revised character statement for the conservation area has also been prepared. This enhanced document details the history of the area and explains why the character is so special and is complemented by a range of historic images and maps.
New Walk – along with nearby Greyfriars and Castle Gardens – was one of the first three parts of the City to be designated a conservation area in 1969. It is the second largest conservation area in the city and also has a Grade II Registered Park and Garden designation, along with nearly 100 nationally listed properties.
It includes the whole of New Walk and Upper New Walk and incorporates King Street, Wellington Street, the area around Tower Street and Leicester Prison, and much of Regent Road and Princess Road East/West.
Conservation areas are parts of the city that have special historic interest or architectural qualities that deserve to be preserved and enhanced.
There are currently 24 designated conservation areas in Leicester.
For more information, and to view the New Walk Conservation Area management plan and character appraisal in full, visit the city council's conservation area webpages