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THIS WEEK Historic Mint House in Pevensey: Plan for part of ground floor to become community asset

COMMUNITY WISH YOU WERE HERE: A bike shop, arts shop and now a florist

BUSINESS Hayley Fitton: New landlady at Royal Oak and Castle in Pevensey, talks to Bay Life

IMAGE CREDIT: T Cecil Howitt, father architect, Beachlands estate, Pevensey Bay

Congratulations to all the objectors, the Pevensey parish councillor who worked so hard in a personal capacity with Historic England to draw attention to the value of the building, to Pevensey Parish Council and to the campaigning group that advised and offered information about the history of the building in helping to see that the application to turn Anderida House into flats was rejected by Wealden Council. Attention will now turn to what will happen next. With will and vision and T.Cecil Howitt, the father architect of Beachlands, the building could become the pride of Pevensey Bay.—Bay Life, 12 February 2019

The decision to refuse applicants, Challinor Hall Limited, Architectural design, their proposal to turn Anderida House into six flats may prove to be a key moment in the recent history of developments in Pevensey Bay.

The decision may have a bearing not just on what happens with Anderida House, but what happens with other proposed developments in the village.

Anderida House forms part of the jigsaw that is the 400 year old story of Pevensey Bay.

Built by Martin and Saunders in the early nineteen thirties, the property formed the basis of their promotion of Beachlands and points towards what was to have been ‘a modern town in its entirety’. The building is at a key location and of some historic note.

The Pevensey Bay Journal in the ‘Big Story’ in edition 20 of the newspaper (18 August 2018) said “stand at the crossroads to Coast Road and the Wallsend Road and you will see local history in the making.

“To your left is Anderida House, home to the builders of Beachlands. In front of you is the road to Beachlands. The father architect of Beachlands was T. Cecil Howitt, one of the most eminent provincial architects of the 20th century. He was commissioned to sketch the first fifty houses and the gateway layout that we see. T. Cecil Howitt went on to build some classic buildings in the country, including a number of modernist classics.”.

The design and access statement by Challinor Hall Limited, Architectural design about Anderida House failed to say anything about the building.

Under the heading of Design Principles, they copy and pasted a paragraph from the Government National Planning Policy Framework. The story of Martin and Saunders and T. Cecil Howitt and Beachlands failed to get a mention.

Under the heading of social context, they said, “six additional dwellings will be created to aid the government’s desire to boost significantly the supply of housing. The application building contributes to the character and visual amenity of the area”.

In what sense did the building of six flats on this site of note contribute to the “character and visual amenity of the area”?

The character of the area at this reference point was established in the early thirties. The building is part of the story about T. Cecil Howitt and Beachlands, and his unfinished symphony to the sea,. This story is worthy of more recognition. His sketch of a plan at the seaside that would have been  ‘a modern town in its entirety’ is worthy of further study.

The ambition in the work and the fact that Beachlands was to have been ‘a modern town in its entirely’, makes this aspect of the work of T. Cecil Howitt unique, the story is also a unique part of the bigger story of the birth of modernism at the seaside in this country.

Beachlands is a part of that story. Part of the story locally began at Anderida House with T. Cecil Howitt working with local builders and architects Martin and Saunders.

The Odeon Cinema in Weston-super-Mare in Somerset is an art deco cinema building designed by Thomas Cecil Howitt. Still largely intact and retaining its originally installed Compton organ, the cinema is a Grade II listed building.

Anderida House is not a classic building perhaps not worthy of listing, but the building is worthy of note and most importantly the building is very much part of the story of Pevensey Bay.

Would the six flats at this point in the village have enhanced or destroyed this part of the story?

In the design statement from Challinor Hall Limited we heard that “future occupiers would support the local economy. The building would generate Council Tax and supporting local facilities, services and infrastructure”.

Is that all that Challinor Hall Limited had to say about the economic and social context of their proposal?

Pevensey Bay deserves some respect with regard to economic regeneration.

What we require is vision, economic and social thinking in context, and most importantly investment.

The possibility that with support, Anderida House could become part of a new vision has come onto the horizon again.

Vision produced both Anderida House and Beachlands.

Whatever happens next at Anderida House, there is an argument to be put that there has to be some acknowledgement of the history of the building in any proposal.

Pevensey Bay is now comprised of some very active and savvy campaigning groups.

Might the building now be nominated as a community asset?

The siting of a small museum here at the crossroads of our story, a place that could tell the story of Pevensey Bay, is something that has been mooted by a number of campaigners.

As well as the story of T.Cecil Howitt and Beachlands centre stage, there could be exhibition boards about Innings Cottage, the fishermens cottages, the Victorian cottages in Bay Terrace and the Edwardian seafront and the growth of the notion of our small seaside location over the last two hundred years that began with the building of the Bay Hotel in 1898. This is a unique story.

We were also part of the birth of situation comedy in this country. The Goons were here in the fifties. The anarchic radio comedy changed the face of comedy. Shows are littered with references to Pevensey Bay. Ethel Wood was cleaning lady to Peter Sellers.

Why could we not tell the story of the Goons in a little museum sited inside Anderida House?

Fans of early Modernism might come to see the sketches of T. Cecil Howitt and Beachlands. Goons fans might come from across the country.

Might the National Lottery provide a grant for the purpose of siting a little museum on the site of Anderida House?

A fundraising exercise across the country, billed under the auspices of the ‘Friends of Anderida House in Pevensey Bay’ might resonate

A crowd funding campaign might resonate. This is what happens elsewhere in the country in seaside locations with particular buildings of note.

Why can not Anderida House become the reference point that marks the crossroads to our past in the form of a small museum?

Might such an endeavour enhance the character of the locality and become an interesting addition to our economic future and a new footprint as part of the Pevensey Bay visitor destination experience?

Turning the site of note to the village into six flats would do nothing to promote the social or economic character of Pevensey Bay.

With all these development plans for flats, there is something about these kinds of ill-thought out proposals that speak personal gain to parish councils, local authorities and planning inspectors. They are both discordant and an affront to rural communities.

Perhaps common sense has now prevailed.

The sustainability of the fragile infrastructure of the kind that we see in Pevensey Bay should be uppermost in the decision making process.

Copy and pasting a paragraph from a Government National Planning Policy Framework, as Challinor Hall Limited have done in their design statement, will not do.

The poverty of thinking by Challinor Hall Limited in their design statement was abject.

What was hoped was that the proposal to turn Anderida House into six flats would be rejected by Wealden Council, and this has now happened.

We will now see whether the developers undertake an appeal.

The rejection of the proposal to turn Anderida House into six flats may prove to be a key moment in the recent history of Pevensey Bay with developers, because a benchmark may now have been set.

What should not be forgotten is that a sustainable solution must be found to the siting of our precious public library.

Whatever views have been expressed about the need for such an enterprise to be publicly accountable and based on the principals of the public library movement that date back to 1852 in this country, there are so many local people who care with a passion about the need for us to have our own public library here, they are united in that public purpose, and share that vision.

Action in Rural Sussex is here now in the Bay, they have expertise in the establishment of rural public libraries in Sussex.

A small art gallery has been mooted for Peveney Bay for a number of years.

Museums, libraries and art galleries are a natural fit working together,

A number of ideas may emerge.

These ideas are just samplers for what could be done with will and vision and the father architect of Beachlands,, T.Cecil Howitt.

Perhaps in the future, development plans may at least begin to reference a connection with the village of some description.

Sheila Holden, the inspector who wrote the report dismissing the appeal on behalf of the Inspectorate, with regard to the Beach Tavern proposal, suggested that the main question was the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area.

In her conclusion she said,”the Framework also advises that planning decisions should ensure that developments establish a strong sense of place, which will function well and add to the overall quality of an area over the long term”.

Anderida House is a vital piece of the jigsaw in the story of Pevensey Bay.

Simon Montgomery
OP:ED, Pevensey Bay Journal, edition 26