UPVC windows are OUT
An article with the above headline was published in our September 1998 Newsletter (No.120). The article reported that planning permission for new windows in Nook Rise, within the Wavertree Garden Suburb Conservation Area, had been refused. The City Council's Planning Officer stated that "UPVC is an inappropriate material in conservation areas, which harms their special character".
Twelve years later - as we reported in Newsletter No.178 - the Council belatedly recognised that the guidance it had previously issued on window replacement had not been enforced. Following an opinion survey of Garden Suburb residents, a letter was circulated door-to-door, in September 2010, stating that consideration would now be given to the use of UPVC, but that new windows must "copy the area's historic timber windows". Unfortunately, some householders took this to mean that there was no need to submit a planning application, provided so-called 'Georgian' style windows were installed.
Since that time, Council officers have begun to clamp down once again. Several householders who have installed replacement windows have been forced to submit retrospective planning applications, and most of these have been refused. Enforcement notices have been served by the Council, to force householders to remove the unauthorised windows and replace them with 'approved' alternatives. In those cases where the householders have appealed against the Council's refusal of planning permission or against the serving of an enforcement notice, the Planning Inspectorate has tended to come down in favour of the Council's view that the UPVC products currently on the market do not satisfactorily replicate the three-dimensional profile of traditional timber windows.
The Wavertree Society's view has always been that the most important elements of the Garden Suburb windows are the glazing bars (which need to be raised, not 'sandwiched between the panes' plastic strips) and the mullions and transoms (which need to be of uniform width when viewed from the street, irrespective of which parts of the window actually open). We feel that several examples exist, within the Garden Suburb, of UPVC windows which blend well with the original architecture, and that these could be recommended to others. However, the Council's conservation officers - and the Government's planning inspectors - clearly disagree. They have identified another element of the traditional window design which is felt to be of critical importance: the opening casements must be flush with the surrounding frame when closed. For this reason, the Council officers' view is now that only timber replacement windows are likely to be acceptable. And our advice to householders - as it has been for many years now - is that NO window replacement should be undertaken within the Conservation Area without first consulting the Planning Department.