THE HEADLINE in the Observer ‘Famous artist’s studio is saved from demolition’ (Observer, May 5) is misleading. Neither Belmont Lodge nor the building in its grounds used by Rossetti are listed buildings or part of a designated conservation area, and may therefore be demolished at any moment.
A recent attempt by the town council to have the building listed was rejected by English Heritage because of modern changes both internally and externally to the chimneys and window frames.
Belmont Lodge is not great architecture, but along with its sycamore tree and flint wall bordering the pavement, it contributes so much to the street scene.
It possesses, in the words of Gertrude Jekyll, ‘that precious quality of character – a thing that can scarcely be defined, but that is most clearly perceptible to all who have sympathy with the history of the place as shown in its architectural expression’.
We may take heart from the fact councillors recognise this and expressed their regret, but there is surely something wanting in planning regulations that prevent local authorities from protecting unlisted but pleasant-looking buildings, allowing them to consider only their intended replacements – in this case to mitigate as far as possible the degree of hideousness.
Similarly, there is something extremely irresponsible in the present owner’s desire to destroy yet another of Bognor’s period buildings, merely to make a fast buck and move on – having carried out past alterations that now render the building unlistable.