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Great Dunmow Town Design Statement - Design guidance for enhancing and protecting the character of Dunmow.

An Overview: The Character of Great Dunmow and Design Issues

The town of Great Dunmow has grown rapidly in recent years as a succession of housing estates has been built on the edge of the ‘historic’ built up area. These have increased in scale and have culminated in the Woodlands Park estate which will consists of some 1300 houses.

The ‘original’ Dunmow is quite hard to pin down. There was a Roman settlement in the area of modern day Highfields and Church End would appear to have been the core of the medieval settlement. However, the long established character of the town which most people would recognise and which is reflected in the conservation area status is derived from the High Street, Stortford Road, Market Place, North Street and the Causeway, Church End and Beaumont Hill. This essentially Y shaped settlement pattern lies alongside the River Chelmer with the later medieval Market Place located on higher ground, away from the flooding of the Church End area.

This simple shape and its relationship to the landscape give Great Dunmow key aspects of its character in particular its relationship to the Chelmer Valley and the wider landscape. The other and perhaps essential part of the character of the ‘old’ town is however made up of it’s buildings and spaces.

English Heritage Historic Settlement Study

Before looking in more detail at these aspects of the town it is worth quoting some of the findings and views of the recent English Heritage report that was submitted to the East of England Plan Examination in public.
The report describes Great Dunmow as “one of the region’s most important historic towns” (P 17) and states that “The town is at a critical moment in its development” (Para 5.12) It goes on to explain the need for thorough capacity studies to be carried out before plans for expansion are adopted. “A detailed study is needed analysing its historic character and capacity for growth before decisions on future expansion are made“. The Town Design Statement completely endorse this view and welcomes (with some reservations) both the Conservation Area Appraisal and the Historic Character Assessment that have been published by the District Council.

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The English Heritage Report identifies the following key features as being quintessential to Great Dunmow

  • An ancient street pattern
  • A high proportion of historic buildings
  • Ginnels running at right angles to the High St
  • Glimpses of trees and open countryside
  • An important common
  • High quality approaches from the north and east
  • Important views of the church from the Chelmer
  • A distinct historic enclave around Church End
  • A wide range of historic building types
  • An informal palette of building materials, styles and colours
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