Building on National Trust Land – Getting Design Approval

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Heathcoat Cricket Club, Tiverton, Devon


The original clubhouse, which was constructed in 1928 in the beautiful grounds of the National Trust Property at Knightshayes near Tiverton had been added to at various intervals over the intervening 80 years. In 2008 a proposal was put to the National Trust Panel to replace the building and a contemporary design was promoted. At this time the Trust requested the production of a condition survey to justify the replacement rather refurbishment of the existing. This was done and proved conclusively that the building was virtually unusable. Furthermore the funding providers (primarily the Cricket Governing Body the ECB) had confirmed that were not willing to provide any funding at all for a building with limited, or no, long term sustainability.

the beautiful grounds - Macdonald Design Ltd

The beautiful grounds at Knightshayes

The usage for the pavilion had also radically changed over the period of its life. When first constructed the requirement was for a building suitable for two teams to change in, eat tea and be supported by several spectators. This has now been supplanted by the needs of a very dynamic and thriving cricket club playing in Devon Cricket’s Premier Division, supporting over 80 senior players, 220 junior members and their parents and families and is regarded as a very community focused operation. In addition the ground is so picturesque 12 touring teams are accommodated each season (it could be many more) and five Devon County fixtures, one of which is a two day game are played at the ground. On these days over 80 people have to be fed both lunches and teas.

the dilapidated old structure
The picturesque but dilapidated existing pavilion

Any bid for funding, via the Devon Cricket Board to the ECB will take into account the Focus Club status of the club, their delivery responsibilities under this agreement, minimum ground and building criteria set by the Devon Premier League and the minimum technical standards set out by the ECB in their Technical Standards Guidance (TS5).

The previous design did take much of this into account and the allocated spaces, whilst predating the introduction of the TS5 document, anticipated their needs well. However in the opinion of the Trust the contemporary nature of the proposed building, its position and its overall scale were not deemed acceptable or appropriate. This scheme was withdrawn and the club looked to produce a more traditional response.

Macdonald Design were contacted by the club who had noted the companies’ work on two ECB National Showcase Clubs at Ashtead C.C. and Chipstead C.C. and having met the project team they were appointed to deliver the revised concept that reflected the existing construction and design style and be in keeping with the Knightshayes traditional landscape. The overall scale of the proposed building has been dictated by two major considerations. Firstly the actual numbers who are using the facility and secondary the statutory requirements of both the ECB and the Devon Premier League. The new proposal conforms to all TS5 requirements and the size and viewing flexibility of the new clubroom supports the hugely expanded membership and community usage

Other activities are also centred around the building including the annual Blue Cross Dog Charity Day, Horse Shows and other Trust led activities. The proposed building would be seen by the club as a facility that can be fully utilised by the National Trust and the club are keen to work with the management team at Knightshayes to develop mutually delivered events and programmes.

The new project team immediately contacted various representatives from both the National Trust and the Local Authority with a view to working harmoniously to produce an appropriate design and would also incorporate sensitive approaches to protection of livestock and car parking overflow.

The construction materials recommended for the roof provoked the most discussion. However the key principle for the project team to consider was a very practical one first and foremost. The roof be subject to damage on a very regular basis from cricket balls. As a result a traditional roof slate is totally inappropriate as any ball landing directly on them will split or smash the slate tile. As a result an almost continuous maintenance/replacement operation is required. The project team reviewed the installation of a thatched roof but felt that the legacy of very high ongoing maintenance cost would leave an unfair burden. Sedam was reviewed but not with enthusiasm.

new pavilion - Macdonald Design Ltd
The new pavilion

One solution would be to use a Decra metal tiled system which is impervious to damage but the National Trust panel were concerned that the tile would not ‘weather’ at the same rate as the rest of the building. Consequently a rubber Dynaslate tile was selected that does attract lichen and algae and having been formed from, amongst other things, old mobile phones, was extremely sustainable!

Macdonald Design had proposed using National Ltd who had recently completed the outstanding projects at Ashtead and Chipstead but in a further twist the National Trust offered the use of timber cut from the grounds of Knightshayes and they would supply it free of charge. Using a local timber frame contractor the project team have developed an outstanding building with a truly unique story – a new pavilion, designed to meet contemporary needs but constructed using centuries old techniques using timber which had been growing on the site for over 100 years!

The project has now been approved by the National Trust, has Planning Permission and Building Control approval and is fully funded. The project costing nearly £500,000 commenced on 12th September and will be completed by the end of March 2013.

Steve Macdonald is Principal of Macdonald Design Ltd who are specialist Sports Building Architecture and Sports Development Consultants. They are based in Surrey but work nationally and are accredited consultants who work closely with all of the major Governing Bodies.