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The Future of a Coventry Volcano

Etna Restaurant, Hertford Street

The Coventry Society is well used to commenting on planning applications relating to historic and important buildings. We know what to do; we need to protect the city’s historic heritage and make sure that developers don’t run riot over our city’s history! But what do we say when there is a plan to demolish and replace a modest Victorian building that has no architectural value but has a lot of significance in the collective memory of the city.

Such a conundrum arises with the recent planning application to demolish the Etna Restaurant in Hertford Street. Details of the planning application are available here. The current 19th century building has little architectural value and little historic significance, although this might once have been the music shop where Philip Larkin used to buy his jazz records. The building appears to have lost an upper storey perhaps in the War so what is there is a bit of a mish-mash; the rear facing the Methodist hall is an utter mess and really needs something doing with it especially now the new sports centre is getting close to being finished.

However the building that is planned to replace it is a very bland bit of cheapo architecture which is too tall for the location.

Like most recent developments in Coventry the new use will mainly be student housing. However the developers know that this is a shopping street and to ensure that they get planning permission they have included a small shop unit downstairs facing Hertford Street. However the shop unit is tiny and is unlikely to attract a retailer, particularly as it can’t be serviced from the rear because of the flats there and where will they put the bins? To be usable the whole ground floor would need to be commercial and that would reduce the number of student flats.

Etna restaurant will be very familiar to many Coventry people and will hold a small warm place in their hearts. It’s part of Coventry’s collective history. Is this important enough to argue for its retention?

This is the dilemma. We have a modest building that has a very poor rear elevation and little to justify its retention but a lot of “cultural history” being replaced by a boring, poorly designed building with little likelihood of a retail future at street level.

Would you argue to keep the existing building? Would you argue for its replacement with a better designed replacement? Or are the planners so weak now that a poorly designed replacement will go ahead anyway? What do you think?

Reader Comments (6)

I love this building and personally would hate to see MORE student accommodation. It is shocking the amount of student flats being built. In the area in which I live I have student halls opposite and 2 minutes down the road the newly built cycle works, student accommodation and a further 2 very large student flats being built which will over look the ring road. I am not against the students coming here I believe it is good for the city. But really right in town...... why destroy a rather quirky and quaint building? Has the council lost their mind? Please lets keep the buildings that make the city what it is. It was destroyed during the bombing now its being destroyed by over development. I welcome change and growth but this is too much.

By Kate Hills on Friday, July 13, 2018

Hertford Street is the gateway to the City Centre from the railway station and should be a much better place than it is today. The top end is being improved with the opening up of the bridge through to Broadgate and one side is due to be transformed as part of City Centre South, if it ever happens.As well as the question of whether a decent Victorian building should be demolished, the wider issue is why this part of the street appears to have been abandoned to piecemeal mediocre developments, with no vision either for the appearance of the Hertford Street side or for the back of these buildings which abut not only the new Water Park but also Ford's Hospital, one of the City's medieval gems. There is no indication that this area will be improved from its current eyesore state or that the depressing dark "tunnel" through to Greyfriars Lane will be demolished as it should be.

By John Burgess on Sunday, July 15, 2018

If retail worked in that location, then the building wouldn't be derelict, as with much of the vacant properties in the city centre new thinking is needed to reactivate the site. The scale of the unit wouldn't prevent its use for a nail bar, coffee shop, chai bar, florist, newsagents, sweet shop, or even a New York style bodega. This downmarket street is infested with charity shops, what kind of a retailer would do you think would want to be there?

By Graeme Mulvaney on Sunday, July 15, 2018

Have they totally taken leave of their senses. This is the mentality of the people who have ruled over this city since the second world war.

By Fred luckett on Sunday, July 15, 2018

Heritage is very important and many people may take beautiful buildings for granted until they are gone. Once they are gone, they are gone forever! Whilst I understand the need to bring revenue into the city via students, you can't expect the city to prosper by this alone. The city council need to explore other avenues to encourage residents and visitors into the city and to further exploit its heritage. Currently the city centre is very unappealing to many who may have spending power. Improving the city centre in general whilst conserving/preserving the attractive aspects is the only way to go. It's so frustrating that there are those who don't appreciate the past in order to build a future.

By C Hart on Tuesday, July 17, 2018

I agree in knocking it and it's neighbours down. But instead of plonking yet another lump of student accomadation in it's place , why not leave a green grassed area and open views of Ford's hospital and the church . Surely that would be more attractive for people walking into town from the station , rather than the dark dingy tunnel Hertford Street is at the moment

By Phillip McLean on Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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