Natural Stone ‘The Real Thing’


Stamford’s planners strict stipulations regarding building materials have not allowed modern building to blight the famous historical landscape.


Stamford Stone Company as suppliers of Natural Stone were interested to read the following news article in Natural Stone Specialist Magazine’s Newsletter and felt this well worth passing on: 

Retrospective appeal to use reconstituted stone in Bath is

thrown out


“Reconstituted stone is not natural stone. While it may seek to replicate and reflect natural stone, its different appearance and behaviour becomes increasingly obvious with time, when the natural processes of weathering reveal the inferiority of the artificial product.” – Inspector.

An independent inspector has upheld a decision by Bath Council planners to refuse retrospective planning permission to use reconstituted stone rather than natural Bath limestone for four houses in the city.

Planning permission was granted for the houses in Gibbs Mews, in the Bath Conservation Area that is part of the World Heritage Site, in February 2009, on condition they were built using “natural Bath Stone”.

They were not. What the council has described as “reconstituted faced Bath stone blocks” were used instead.

The developer, Thameside Property Company Ltd, maintained that the reconstituted stone fulfilled the condition of the planning permission to use ‘natural stone’.

The Council considered this assertion “perverse”. The officer responsible reported when the Council considered a retrospective planning application to change the planning approval in April last year, that: “Natural stone would suggest in its natural state, and reconstituted stone is a product of a manufacturing process, and could never be described as ‘sawn’, as it is on the relevant drawings. If the definition of ‘natural stone’ is extended to encompass reconstituted stone, it would appear extremely difficult for a condition to be set which requires ‘real’ Bath stone to be used.”

The retrospective planning application was rejected. The developer appealed against the decision. On 8 January this year the appeal was heard by Inspector Jennifer Armstrong. It included a site visit. On 22 January the appeal was dismissed.

 Among the reasons given is: “Reconstituted stone is not natural stone.”

Ms Armstrong reported: “While it may seek to replicate and reflect natural stone, its different appearance and behaviour becomes increasingly obvious with time, when the natural processes of weathering reveal the inferiority of the artificial product.

 “This can be seen in a number of 20th century buildings in the city and, as the Council stated at the hearing, such examples illustrate why natural stone is routinely required for new development in the Conservation Area.

“And while I have considered the applications before me on their own merits, any acceptance for the use of artificial stone could be cited as a precedent for development elsewhere.”

The Council (its full name is Bath & North East Somerset Council) says it will now write to the applicant to ascertain how it intends to comply with the original planning permission.


Natural limestone will weather over time to sit seamlessly with the historical buildings it neighbours


 With thanks to The Natural Stone Specialist Magazine ( ) for the above article

Whilst to the uninitiated the products may appear similar, potential cost savings could have very expensive ramifications as both frost resistance and structural strength may well be compromised. It has long been a much debated subject when anyone changes a specification as to where the eventual responsibilities lie in the event of a product failure. If the architect specifies any product based on its technical application which fails, then we presume the architect, or their liability insurers, are potentially liable for costs. If on the other hand a contractor or sub contractor makes the change which then fails, could they then be liable? If this is the case then any ‘cost saving’ achieved could well be very seriously wiped out with the work having to be corrected or replaced. In any structural material the potential cost could well be hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

Large housing development in historical Stamford by national house Taylor Wimpey shows how new homes can blend into conservation areas with the right materials.

Substitution of specification is nothing new and indeed the words ‘or similarly approved’ have long been an adage to get around European anti-competition regulations to make sure the specification isn’t seen as a specific instruction. It is however very important that ‘approval’ is both sought and confirmed from a liability perspective and it is reassuring to see technical bodies and local authorities standing up to these substitutions from a technical, aesthetic and of course a safety perspective.

Many quarries like The Stamford Stone Company have technical advisers who can assist with specifications and  the Clipsham Limestone from their quarries have a plethora of industry recognised test data to confirm that it meet both the structural strength and weathering capabilities required both as a structural load bearing material or as a cladding component.

On the recent award winning Bishop Edward King Chapel just outside Oxford, the local Oxfordshire Stone was no longer quarried so Stone Consultants Harrison Goldman were engaged by the architects, Niall McLaughlin Architects to find a stone with a similar appearance and technical performance. Having collated all of the technical data Peter Harrison of Harrison Goldman specified Clipsham Limestone which was supplied by The Stamford Stone Company.

 “Taking into account the geographic location, frost resistance was a key factor and the Clipsham Limestone was the only stone Harrison Goldman found that had sufficient test data to show it was fit for purpose, having already met the remaining architectural criteria.

Peter went on to comment – “Cast Stone is increasingly being used on a cost saving agenda but in my view it lacks the soul of natural stone which has a unique patina providing both a depth and a life of its own. The stone weathers giving the building a maturity and a very individual appearance.”

Any developer, contractor or of course architect, looking to put together a ‘Stone’ project would be well advised to contact the quarry directly as a ‘cheaper alternative’ could prove to be anything but. Purchasing directly from a quarry such as The Stamford Stone Company can at least put your mind at rest in the knowledge that you are getting a complete all round package of competitive pricing and technical expertise.

This applies to all sizes of building, Stamford Stone Company have a long standing portfolio of past projects that you can visit from Award Winning housing developments to chapels and self builds.

For more information on using our natural English Limestone in your building project, call us on 01780 740970 or email us at .

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