Greenside, a grade II listed 1930s house, was described by HR Hitchcock as “one of the best” of Connell, Ward and Lucas’s houses which he saw as “among the most characteristic examples of the time and the period”. Now Runnymede Council in Surrey has granted permission for its complete demolition. They have done this against the advice of the Twentieth Century Society, Ancient Monuments Society and English Heritage, and against the recommendations of their own officers. Usually when a local authority makes a decision like this the government steps in, and says that a planning inquiry should be held, to consider all the issues in a thorough and open way, but in this case GOSE (the Local Government Regional Office) has decided not to do this.
We believe that the case would set up an enormously damaging precedent: basically, the committee appear to have granted the application because, as Jonathan Glancey reported in The Guardian (4 Nov 2002), neighbours don’t like the building and the views of it from Wentworth Golf Course. One neighbour wrote that the house looks so incongruous that “the shock is such that they invariably lose the hole through fluffed chips or stabbed putts”. Certainly the criteria in the government guidance which councils are meant to follow (a pamphlet known as PPG15) have not been addressed. This means that no good reasons were put forward for demolition. The owner has not shown that the building cannot be economically repaired, and as a beautiful house in a great setting we feel sure that it would find an appreciative new owner if offered for sale at a sensible price.
We have taken legal advice from a top planning barrister who advises us that he is “gobsmacked” by the case and thinks that there are strong grounds for a judicial review. If this consent is not challenged then it will have enormous implications for all listed buildings, not just C20th ones.
Legal action does not come cheap – we were told that to pursue judicial review we needed to have a fighting fund of £40,000: the amount we would have to pay out in a worst case scenario (ie if we lose, and if costs are awarded against us). We are a small society, without large reserves for a fighting fund, but as we feel this is such an important case we launched an appeal to all our members, and indeed to all those who like the best C20 buildings, to pledge money to bail us out if necessary. By 6 December we had reached our initial target, which has enabled us to initiate action.
We have had strong press coverage for our campaign, with supportive articles by Jonathan Glancey in The Guardian and Giles Worsley in The Daily Telegraph, which have also brought us new members. The knowledge that so many people share our outrage about the potential loss of this important building, as well as the tremendous generosity they have shown in offering to underwrite legal action, is extremely encouraging.
Please contact the Twentieth Century Society office if you would like further information, or to make a pledge.
The Telegraph 6/11/02
The Guardian 16/11/02
Another Lucas building under threat – Noah’s Boathouse