Plans to convert a listed stables building in Eastbourne have proven to be controversial when discussed at an advisory committee this week.
Developers are seeking permission to convert former stables in the courtyard of the Compton Place manor house into rented office space, in a move they say will be both reversible and ensure there are funds available for much-needed maintenance work.
But Historic England – the public body responsible for protecting historic and listed buildings – are strongly opposed to the scheme, saying long-term preservation of the building had been agreed during a previous application to convert stables at the Compton Place Estate in 2014.
The conflict was discussed at a meeting on Tuesday (October 2) by Eastbourne Borough Council’s conservation area advisory committee – a group which gives specialist advice to town planners.
During the meeting, architect Richard Crook – who sits on the committee as an unelected advisor – said he was surprised by Historic England’s position and warned it may be ‘cutting your nose to spite your face’.
He said: “All my professional life I have been taught that a building has got to have a good use in order to survive.
“So many listed barns have been destroyed because current were planning applications for them were not given and I know of several barns that have fallen down eventually because they have no new use.
“I don’t suggest that will happen here but the point is that you can cut your nose to spite your face by not allowing a good use of a building. If it is reversible and is supported by an archaeologist then I think I know which way I would be voting If I were allowed to.”
His views were shared by Conservative councillor Robert Smart (Meads), who said the decision was ‘a matter of principle’.
He said: “There is an issue of principle over whether Historic England should really go around demanding that buildings are not used. The fact that it is fully reversible, if that is the case, stands in its favour.”
However Liberal Democrat councillors Colin Swansborough (Hampden Park) and Pat Rodohan (Upperton) disagreed with this view, voicing concerns about going against Historic England’s expert advice.
Cllr Swansborough said: “I understand the view but I still don’t feel moved to vote for the conversion. I would like to see it remain as it is.”
Meanwhile Cllr Rodohan, who is also chairman of the committee, said: “I too have serious reservations. I wonder if planning in 2014 would have been granted had there not been the caveats.
“I am happy that the applicant believes it should be reversible, but are specialists happy it would be reversible?
“My view is that once you alter a building then it is altered forever”
After a debate, the committee was unable to agree whether the application will detract or enhance from the listed building, agreeing to advise planners that there were ‘differing views’ on the value of the application.
More details about the proposals can be found under reference 180789 on the Eastbourne Borough Council planning website.