Finchingfield and the proposed new bridge that would ruin a wonderful setting
CPRE Essex is backing an appeal to have Finchingfield given World Heritage Status… in the face of unpleasant plans for a new bridge that would have a deeply detrimental impact on the lovely village.
Member Petra Ward sets out the case…
“The Finchingfield Conservation Area was designated by Braintree District Council in recognition of its special architectural and historic interest.
“The importance of this heritage asset depends on a mix of contributary factors that include not only important buildings but also green spaces, the relationship of buildings to the street, commercial activity, street furniture and traffic flow. All these contribute to the perception of an area of historic importance.
“The latest edition of the Pevsner guide to Essex, written by James Bettley, describes Finchingfield as a village ‘of picture-book completeness not often found’.
“The village has grown organically since the 11th century, when it was mentioned in the Domesday Book. It exhibits an authentic grouping of a typical East Anglian village.
“Finchingfield is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, with a river at its heart and a bridge linking the two sides of the village.
“The open space created by the riverside, the green and the medieval street pattern affords wide views from both directions of the public and private buildings, including the church, the windmill, the guildhall and the interesting houses of differing size and height.
“However, Finchingfield is also vulnerable to unacceptable changes and unnecessary modernisation that would threaten the Conservation Area.
“This special village has a high level of significance and therefore merits a high level of protection for current and future generations.”
The contentious scheme entails the village’s 200-year-old bridge – the focus of so many photographs – being replaced by another that would be wholly out of keeping with the delightful setting.
The planning application by the county council would see the bridge demolished and replaced with a wider, flat, inauthentic structure. Further, the village’s historic green space would be used to modify and straighten the bridge approaches, encouraging greater HGV traffic through the village and surrounding rural road network.
Campaigners believe that more lorries in closer proximity to residents and tourists in the village centre, enabled by a new, inauthentic, wider and stronger bridge, would reduce Finchingfield’s attractiveness as both a globally important heritage site and tourist destination.
Hence their submission of an Expression of Interest application for Finchingfield to be classed a UNESCO World Heritage Site – such designation, it is hoped, would help ward off unpleasant developments like the mooted new bridge.