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Currey Award returns with accolades for best new buildings and projects in Bishop's Stortford: Windhill houses, The Residence at Wickham Hall, St Mary's, St Joseph's and Avanti Meadows schools and Waterside Stortford



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Bishop's Stortford Civic Federation (BSCF) has celebrated the best of architectural design and construction in the town with a return to the Currey Award.

In 2020, the BSCF, a confederation of residents' associations, decided for a third year that there were no projects worthy of consideration, but for 2021 the judges scored a magnificent seven contenders.

The winner was a scheme that erased 1970s bad taste from Windhill and transformed a frontage dominated by three garage doors into a tasteful family home.

Currey Award winner Bushel House at 11a Windhill. Picture: Vikki Lince
Currey Award winner Bushel House at 11a Windhill. Picture: Vikki Lince

Peter Burslem, managing director of White Iron Property, accepted the top prize from the mayor, Cllr Keith Warnell, for his work on the property, now known as Bushel House.

The judges spent September surveying the nominees. They were led by Gill Champion, who trained and worked in planning for 10 years in both public and private practice before having her family.

"I've always retained an interest and have been helping the civic federation organise the award for a while as it's a nice self-contained project," she said. "I always find the most interesting part speaking to those involved in the projects, finding out a bit of the history behind the property and projects etc."

Bushel House was formerly dominated by three garage doors
Bushel House was formerly dominated by three garage doors

Before its transformation, Bushel House stood out for all the wrong reasons, she said. It began life as a barn, but ugly additions in 1974 – possibly for use as storage for the former Clement Joscelyne shop in Market Square – jarred with the street scene. "It was not in the same ballpark for quality and design as other buildings in Windhill."

She said that Peter had succeeded with "a lovely redevelopment that looks as if it's always been there".

His work amply illustrated the aims of the Currey Award. "It is always good to, firstly, make people aware that there are some decent new builds and refurbs in the town, and, secondly, to reward the owners/occupiers for putting in the time and thought which go into making a great new building," said Gill.

Bushel House faced strong competition from its neighbour at No 11, a grade II building dating from the 16th century which has been given a "carefully and beautifully executed facelift".

St Mary's Catholic School. Picture: Vikki Lince
St Mary's Catholic School. Picture: Vikki Lince

Three schools made the short list – each facing a different challenge.

St Mary's Catholic School, also in Windhill, won praise for its sympathetic treatment of Georgian and Victorian buildings, including a classroom block so dilapidated that it had not been used for more than 15 years.

The incorporation of a new, covered fire escape was particularly worthy of note as a "successful addition". Overall, the panel agreed, the move to modern secondary facilities had still managed to "retain the feel of the original architecture".

St Joseph's Catholic Primary School pupils outside their new building. Picture: Vikki Lince
St Joseph's Catholic Primary School pupils outside their new building. Picture: Vikki Lince

The nearby St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Great Hadham Road faced the challenge of building a new and bigger campus on a site where the existing 1960s classrooms had to remain in use until the new facilities were complete.

The judges were blunt: "The old school building was no beauty." But in its place – and at a cost of £6.95m after six years of planning and preparation – is "a most successful new building" praised for its unfussy lines, attention to detail and complementary planting.

Avanti Meadows Primary School was nominated but not for its "very austere" facade. Picture: Vikki Lince
Avanti Meadows Primary School was nominated but not for its "very austere" facade. Picture: Vikki Lince

Education authority Hertfordshire County Council had a clean sheet for its 650-pupil Avanti Meadows Primary School project at St Michael's Hurst.

While the judges felt the front of the building was "very austere", at the rear "the school comes into its own" with south-facing classrooms, design touches inspired by Dutch painter Mondrian and thoughtful landscaping.

The Residence co-working centre at Wickham Hall. Picture: Vikki Lince
The Residence co-working centre at Wickham Hall. Picture: Vikki Lince

The sixth contender was a commercial building, The Residence at Wickham Barns, run by businesswoman Karen Tait. Developed by the Harvey family, which has farmed at Wickham Hall since the 1930s, the co-working space was applauded as a successful example of diversification. It won praise for its traditional architecture combined with sustainable features such as air source heat pumps.

In a break from tradition, the federation made a second award when it revealed its verdict during a special ceremony at South Mill Arts.

The Waterside Stortford project received a special award. Picture: Vikki Lince
The Waterside Stortford project received a special award. Picture: Vikki Lince

The judges decided also to honour Waterside Stortford, a 3.5-mile (5.6km) path and countryside trail along a stretch of the River Stort and Stort Navigation which is annotated by information boards.

The project, first mooted in 2009, is a collaboration between the town, district and county councils, Environment Agency and the Canal & River Trust. The judges said it was "a positive spiral of events" to encourage more people to appreciate the waterway.

Former town, district and county councillor Colin Woodward, who was instrumental in the project, said: "What a nice recognition of all the partners' efforts and the essential project support from Sim Richardson and her predecessor at the town council, Kim Hollylee."

Currey Award nominee No 11 Windhill. Picture: Vikki Lince
Currey Award nominee No 11 Windhill. Picture: Vikki Lince
Bushel House was once a barn (53897568)
Bushel House was once a barn (53897568)
St Mary's Catholic School in the early 1900s
St Mary's Catholic School in the early 1900s
Cllr Keith Warnell presents Peter Burslem, MD of White Iron Property, with the Currey Award for his company's "sensitive redevelopment in a conservation area". Picture: Vikki Lince
Cllr Keith Warnell presents Peter Burslem, MD of White Iron Property, with the Currey Award for his company's "sensitive redevelopment in a conservation area". Picture: Vikki Lince
A special Currey Award for Waterside Stortford – from left, Cllr Keith Warnell, ex-councillor Colin Woodward, town council chief executive James Parker and current town and district councillor George Cutting. Picture: Vikki Lince
A special Currey Award for Waterside Stortford – from left, Cllr Keith Warnell, ex-councillor Colin Woodward, town council chief executive James Parker and current town and district councillor George Cutting. Picture: Vikki Lince


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