In December the C20th Society took the unusually courageous step of issuing Judicial Review proceedings against Runnymede Council’s decision to grant listed building consent for the complete demolition of a major modern movement house – Connell Ward Lucas’s Greenside, at Wentworth in Surrey. To do this the Society had to draw on the support of their members whose individual pledges of financial support for legal costs flooded into the office as the word was spread by e-mail.
Now, in advance of the proceedings, Runnymede has decided to concede, and offer no defence of their position. This means that they accept that their original decision “erred in law”. The owner still has 21 days to decide if he wishes to challenge the Society on his own, however the Society has been advised that his chances of success are extremely slim.
This is a great result not just for the C20th Society, but also for the whole of the conservation movement.
The members of Runnymede’s planning committee had overridden the advice of the C20 Society, English Heritage, the Ancient Monuments Society, and even their own planning officer. They had also completely disregarded the government advice (given in PPG15 “Planning and the Historic Environment”) and granted consent for the demolition of Greenside without the applicant making a decent case for demolition in the terms laid down by government (in exceptional circumstances listed buildings may be demolished if they are in very poor condition or there are other specific reasons why alternative uses of the site may be justifiable—making sure this is argued with the utmost rigour is absolutely central to the whole of conservation legislation in this country).
Once the decision has been quashed, then the listed building consent application originally submitted to the council last year, will be once again up for consideration by the Runnymede Planning Committee. The Society hopes very much that this time round they will refuse consent.
This is the only justifiable decision given the architectural and historic importance of the building and its potential to continue in use as a very serviceable and attractive single-family house. If however, Runnymede Council persists in granting consent again, the Secretary of State can still call in the application for a public inquiry, and the C20 Society will press most strongly for this to happen.
The C20th Society is confidant that the condition of the building is basically sound and that refurbishment costs would be modest in comparison to the end value of the property once it is fully restored. It is exactly the sort of building for which there is growing appreciation and demand.
Society Director, Catherine Croft said of the decision;
“This action was a big step for us to take, and we are delighted with the result so far. We couldn’t have done it without the support of our members and the general public. It goes to show that there are many people who care about modern buildings, and don’t consider them to be eyesores.”
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact;
Catherine Croft on 07808 168 489 or
Cela Selley Co-ordinator C20 Soc on 020 7250 3857