Built in 1967, 21 stories high on a hilltop site and containing 130 flats... Burrows Court on Windmill Lane is by far Sneinton's most prominent building. And yet it has stood empty for over a decade, passed through a series of owners' hands, become an eyesore and a thorn in the side of local residents and hosted fires, squatters, urban explorers and even featured in a gruesome murder case.
Burrows Court in 1972. Picture courtesy of Picture the Past
The original vision
In the 1960s high rise buildings like Burrows Court were seen as the future of housing - clean modern and efficient buildings surrounded by fresh air and open space, replacing the grim unsanitary slums of our industrial past. Burrows Court must have seemed to some like a shining beacon showing the way to a cleaner, brighter future. It's the same thinking that saw St Anns demolished and replaced with a new estate, and which nearly drove new multi-lane highways through Sneinton and The Park Estate. According to local author Chris Matthews, Nottingham was very nearly Birmingham...
But the plans were never completed, Sneinton survived and Burrows Court now stands in stark contrast to the low rise terraced housing around. The original tower block served for nearly 27 years before undergoing a major refurbishment in 1994/5. Windows were replaced, concrete was repaired and the block was painted white, giving us the Burrows Court that now graces our skyline.
But the writing was on the wall for Burrows Court, and just ten years later, the Council took the decision to get out of the building for good.
Burrows Court on the Sneinton skyline
The Council sell-off
What had gone wrong? Despite the facelift, the block had 54 vacant flats and the Council was facing a bill of £4 million in refurbishments (including an electrical upgrade) - equivalent to £30,000 per flat. It saw these refurbishments as essential if it was bring the block back in to positive use. The Council was also reporting crime, drug dealing and other antisocial behaviour in the area, which it attributed to the 'isolated location' and the design of the block and the surrounding parking structures.
In 2005 the decision was taken to sell the block off to a private developer, and re-house the existing tenants.
A planning brief was set by the Council for any new owner that would require the block to be retained rather than demolished. Some developers saw this as a block to profitability, as the number of new homes that could be built on the site was very limited. The alternative seemed to be to aim for the luxury end of the market, refurbishing the tower and building low rise housing around - perhaps in an attempt to market the project as an extension to Nottingham city centre rather than a piece of Sneinton. With this in mind, the site was sold to a developer, reportedly from Israel, and plans were drawn up for a spanking new development. This was given planning permission in 2010... and then nothing happened.
2010 plans for an upmarket development. Image via Estate Office Property Consultants
The steady decline of Burrows Court continued at the hands of vandals and squatters, becoming an notorious eyesore with broken windows and several fires. The unfortunate building also featured prominently in the gruesome Kevin Kennedy murder case, when the victim's body (or rather most of it) was found in a shallow grave next to the block.
Burrows Court in 2012. Picture via DerelictPlaces.co.uk
Social/student housing plans
The next attempt to bring Burrows Court back to life was made by a 12 Housing, a developer backed by sporting personalities Carl Froch, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Grant Holt and Rickie Lambert. 12 Housing specialise in student housing, and a new stripped-down planning permission was put in, to upgrade the flats with new windows and wall insulation. Permission was granted in 2013, and the future looked assured after Housing Association Tuntum got involved and HCA (Homes and Communities Agency) government funding of £2.3m appeared to be in the bag. However by 2014, Tuntum was reporting that HCA funding had been withdrawn and it was having to write off all the work it had committed to the project. Once again, Burrows Court was left to rot.
Burrows Court proposals from 2013, via 12 Housing
What's next for Burrows Court?
And now, in 2016, it is reported that a developer called "Landmark Capital Developments" are planning to spend £12m on Burrows Court, to create what the architect describes as "a contemporary residential destination for the city." Demolition and stripping-out activity seems to have stepped up on the site recently, and a planning application was expected in January 2016 but has not yet appeared on the Council's planning portal... so watch this space...
Find out more at the Our Sneinton event on Thursday 11th Feb...
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