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THIS WEEK The Happy St. George’s Day photomontage from the Castle Inn

COMMUNITY Nick Porter, Director of new Pevensey Pre-school, joins Bay Life Journal as columnist

BLOG DIANNE DEAR: Time for English Heritage to get their act together at Pevensey castle


Officer report recommends Wealden Council approval of Beach Tavern Development.
Application No: WD/2017/0060/F
report can be read here

Simon Montgomery, editor Bay Life, responds to news that an officer report to Wealden Council recommends approval of Beach Tavern Development

A letter from Wealden Council to local residents that have objected to the scheme begins, “I refer to the above planning application which is due to be considered by Members of the Planning Committee South on 20 July 2017. The meeting commences at 10.00am and will be at the Civic Community Hall, Wealden District Council Offices, Vicarage Lane, Hailsham, BN27 2AX:.

Linked to the letter is the officer report which explains the reasons for approval.

A petition against the scheme has been signed by 463 people.

This report is questionable to say the least.

There is more information in the four paragraphs that the Guardian wrote in September 2015, than in the whole of this report about the context of the local buildings landscape here.

With regard to the Beachlands estate just down the road from the proposed development a picture has emerged of national significance. The estate is now known to have been one of only a few entire modernist towns planned in the country of this size in the nineteen thirties. It is now known that the architect responsible for the initial layout of Beachlands was one of the most eminent provincial architects of the twentieth century, Thomas Cecil Howitt.

Howitt, whose influence on Nottingham was vast, where he built the Council House, opened by the Prince of Wales in 1929, followed the work with a series of art deco masterpieces across the country, on behalf of Odeon Cinemas, including one in Western-Super-Mare that was listed in 1985. This work was completed at the same time that he worked on the design of Beachlands.

The work of Howitt in Beachlands, is being called “his unfinished symphony to the sea”. The work is now known to be of national significance amongst historians of early modernist architecture.

The Heritage Lottery Fund application to see Marine Avenue with the dual carriageway to the modernist town, faithfully restored to the original conception of the architect is already underway. The remarkable story of Beachlands is now drawing interest from across the country.

The Oyster Houses that act as a lead to the Beachlands Estate are the work of Boulton and Paul, the famous company that built the huts for Scott of the Antarctic and also the shell of the famous airship R101. One of their greenhouses, from 1912, funded by National Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England grants is now in pride of place as one of the main exhibits at the Museum of East Anglian Life

It is possible that The Oyster Houses here in Pevensey Bay will be given listed status in the near future, given the significance and national interest now in the Beachlands estate.

The report writer, recommending to Wealden Council that they approve this huge monstrosity of a building says, ” The Parish Council and others have raised concerns that the design will appear out of context in this location. An appraisal of development surrounding the site has confirmed that there is no single dominating style, the character of the area being defined by development reflecting the style of its period rather than mass repeat of any one style. This variety provides the opportunity for new development to contribute to this evolution in building styles”.

Would the writer of the report like to explain in plain English what is meant by this assessment?

In terms of the evolution of building styles here, what contribution is being made? If the writer does not know the context of the locality, the history of the buildings styles here, how could the writer say with any confidence that this building will be a contribution to these styles?

The proposed development ignores the context seen from the Eastbourne Road for residents and visitors walking towards the development. Essentially the huge 3 storey building will act as a full stop to the village at that point, with people hemmed in visually on three sides facing this development.

The gateway to the shopping parade in the Eastbourne Road will be destroyed. What people will see as they proceed, looming, becoming closer and closer as they walk towards this huge building, is a monstrous full stop.

There is no picture of what will be seen in the report, this will leave people in the village to wonder why this is the case.

What the report writer has done on behalf of Wealden Council is to ignore any wider architectural or social context context to this development. The writer has also ignored what the people of the village have said .

The sycophancy of the report with praise for the architect is an embarrassment.

The writer says “from a design perspective the apartment block is considered to offer a well composed building which is well detailed, visually interesting, and ultimately one that will make a positive contribution to its surroundings by raising the standard of design with an honest architectural approach to a diverse setting”.

Who exactly has considered this question?

The architect began his design statement about the proposed build by explaining that the date of the Beach Tavern build is not known. Is this an honest statement?

The date of the Beach Tavern is known. The land was purchased in 1905, the build was in 1906.

Perhaps the design statement by the architect, which is framed by this assertion, might have read a little more honestly if the document had begun with the words “I did not look up the date of the building of the Beach Tavern”.

What faith or credence can be given to this report?

On 8 May, Martin Beeney, who lives just 8.6 metres away from the proposed development with his family, said, “it will be the beginning of the end for the village if this building goes ahead”.

We now wait to see if this building will be approved by Wealden Council on July 20.

In my view it is not just the sycophancy of the report that is an embarrassment. The absence of any understanding of the context in which the vernacular values of architecture here have evolved is a demonstration of what could properly be regarded as wilful ignorance.

Simon Montgomery
editor, Bay Life