Internal alterations to the house and addition of new French doors to the loggia and dining room, dormer window and conservation rooflight. Deadline for comments - 9 September
The two applications relate to the external and internal changes proposed for West Ridge, one is an application for planning consent and the other is for listed building consent as the property is a Grade II Listed building. The applications provide supporting evidence for the alterations that the owners wish to make in order to preserve the unique character of the house, which is why it was listed, whilst allowing it to be updated to the standards of a modern home suited to the needs of a single family without compromising that historic character wherever possible.
The CRA, in line with its planning policy, would not normally comment upon this type of application. However, as the CRA requested that the building be listed in 2019, to prevent its demolition and redevelopment, on this occasion it is considered appropriate to comment upon the proposals. The owners have consulted with the CRA as the plans for restoring the house have developed and they have taken on board our comments.
The house is notable for being designed by Blair Imrie of Imrie and Angell and was built in 1923 for Alexander Bellamy Stewart. Imrie & Angell are best known for the RHS building at Wisley which is also listed. West Ridge was their principal work in Chipstead, though many houses in the area were in fact designed by the practice. The house remained in the Stewart family until 2017 when it was put up for sale as a development opportunity. It was this that prompted the CRA to approach RBBC to protect the house and the site from redevelopment. RBBC issued a Building Preservation Notice in May 2019 giving the property statutory protection whilst Historic England considered whether it should be permanently listed. An area TPO was also placed on the trees in the grounds. The house was listed on 12 November 2019.
The current owners bought the property in March 2021 with the intention of restoring and living in it as their main home. The house was largely unoccupied from 2017, empty from 2019 and generally neglected culminating in an internal flood in February 2021 that left significant damage. This along with the extensive asbestos lagging material found under floors that had to be removed, render the house uninhabitable. The flood made remedial repair the urgent priority but it had left the property in a very different situation in terms of restoration to the one listed in 2019.
Following remedial repairs, the restoration now proposed has two aspects:
- Externally - to enhance certain features of the house, in some parts restoring the original design that had been changed over the years, to reclaim the property’s architectural integrity; and
- Internally – to adapt some of the existing spaces in order to provide the essential features necessary in a modern home (eg kitchen, bathrooms) whilst maintaining the key internal features that identify the dwelling as an Imrie property.
In terms of comments upon the planning application, the CRA believe that the changes proposed do not appear to have any material adverse impact upon the local area or the neighbouring properties.
In terms of commenting upon the amendments that impact upon the heritage standing of the house, we have referred to RBBC’s policy on Heritage Assets - NHE9 states:
“ ……..the Council will give great weight to the conservation of the asset, irrespective of the level of harm. Development that would help secure the long-term viable use and sustainable future for heritage assets, especially those identified as being at risk of loss and decay, in a manner consistent with its conservation, will be supported.”
In approaching any restoration, Historic England's guidance advises that there is always a balance that has to be struck between the various elements of a restoration and decisions that have to be taken on what has priority. The successful restoration cannot be achieved if everything is given the same priority for retention or recovery, especially where it may have little or no intrinsic historic value and despite the overall cost.
The CRA consider that these principles should be borne in mind when the listed building application is considered. A balance has to be struck between preserving 100% of the historic content of the house and ensuring the long-term viability of the property as a family home. The listing was not designed to be made an inflexible standard that could then perversely prevent the house’s survival rather than supporting the overall aim of creating a long-term future for a house of historic value in Chipstead.
The current owners have put every effort personally into making sure the restoration of West Ridge is a success in terms of the restoration itself and the house’s long-term viability. They have sourced experts in the field of restoration to advise upon all aspects of the work to be undertaken as can be seen in the supporting documents that accompany the application. The CRA believe that given the commitment that the current owners have shown to the project, with the support of RBBC a pragmatic solution can be achieved that will ensure the future viability of the property as a listed building but more importantly as a single-family home.