VOTE: Famous artist’s studio is saved from demolition

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An historic Bognor Regis site has been given a further stay of execution from redevelopment.

Councillors have again refused to support a scheme to replace Belmont Lodge, where famous artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti worked, with flats.

Last week’s decision was the second time Arun District Council’s development control committee members had declined to follow their planning officers’ advice to approve the proposals for 13 two-bedroom flats in principle.

They voted 12-1 to tell their officers to go back for further talks with the applicant, Henry Adams Planning, to produce a more sympathetic proposal in keeping with the area surrounding the Belmont Street site.

Cllr Jacqueline Maconachie said: “We were not terribly keen on the first design.

“I regret to say I’m not much more enthusiastic about this one. I’m still not happy about this.

“Although this tries to emulate some little bits from here, there and everywhere, it certainly would not sit happily next door to the dentist’s surgery, which is to retained.

“When something is demolished and flats are built in its place, they are going to be there for at least 80 to 100 years. If we get the chance, it would be nice to think we don’t make a mistake.”

Cllr Elaine Stainton said: “It’s a great pity for these lovely buildings to be demolished. So much has been demolished in Bognor.

“We have hardly anything left and this is a prime position on the seafront.”

Cllr Nick Wiltshire said: “I know Belmont Street. It’s rather a quaint street for Bognor.

“Belmont Lodge has a grassed area and it’s open-plan as opposed to just another block of flats.

“This application is for just another block of flats. It’s overbearing, it’s out of character and it certainly has no place in Bognor.”

Cllr Jim Brooks said: “I don’t find this scheme does much good for the area at all.

“This design is nodding towards the buildings on either side of Belmont Lodge, but it’s that lovely row of three Georgian-style houses which make up the lodge which dominate the area.

“It’s so sad that again we might lose something in Bognor which is really historic and has a blue plaque on its front wall.

“It’s so important to Bognor to keep our stylish buildings, especially as some people out there consider us a little bit of a joke.”

A previous outline scheme to replace the solicitors’ offices in Belmont Lodge with 24 flats was made to the district council in late 2008. It was withdrawn the following March before councillors could make a decision about the proposals.

Henry Adams Planning applied to build 13 flats there last June. The scheme was disliked by councillors – who called it an act of vandalism – and they asked for another design.

The applicants obliged and produced the latest proposals.

Juan Baeza, a council planning officer, said: “The elevation has been amended to show three pitched roof lines and some of the window treatment on that level has also been altered.”

He told councillors Belmont Lodge was not a listed building nor was it in a conservation area.

Council head of development control Nikolas Antoniou said: “I think we have gone as far as we can in terms of design.

“If members are concerned about what is before them, they can go for a further deferral for further negotiations.”

Objections to the original proposals came from Bognor Regis Town Council, the former regeneration task force and in three individual letters.

The outline application means only the layout and scale of the proposals can be considered by councillors.

All other planning matters are reserved for detailed proposals which have to follow an approval.

Henry Adams Planning is within its rights to appeal to the government for a decision because Arun has exceeded the 13-week deadline for deciding the plans.