8 Lansdown Crescent, Lansdown
The Trust is grateful to the applicant for the opportunity to have a site visit which has helped us considerably to understand the plans for these two Grade I listed buildings. In brief, we support the reinstatement of the buildings to separate dwellings, and the associated conservation repair works that will occur as part of the scheme. We object to the additional building proposed for the coach house for reasons detailed later in this response. Our comments are as follows:
Application Detail & Justification for Works:
We have been disappointed with the detail contained in the application, in particular the depth of the historic report. The Grade I listing should require a high level of analysis and development i.e. proportionate to the significance of the asset. We would have expected to see a more detailed breakdown of the elements of significance of the buildings; there is no reference in the heritage assessment to the associative historic interest of the personalities who made significant changes to these buildings and what level of special value should be placed on these changes as telling the historical story of the house. In particular the Statement of Significance makes no reference to Younghusband or Jaeger but instead classes their input into the building as creating a building interior that is ‘poor and confused’. While this may be the case it should clearly be justified on a case by case basis as the applicant appears to be leaving in situ equally ‘poor and confused’ elements which happen to suit, such as the later developments to the observatory and the coach house.
We also find the drawings to be somewhat underwhelming in terms of detail and would have hoped that an asset of this significance and scale would warrant at least some 3D renderings of the new build elements and much more detailed sectional drawings and elevations on joinery.
This lack of objective analysis of the diverse elements of value of the asset means that the changes proposed appear somewhat arbitrary and subjective; in some areas reinstatement to the original Georgian plan form is proposed, in other areas 19th or 20th century layers are being retained. The decision on what to keep or what to remove appear to be made on the basis of what is right for the applicant’s intentions regarding these buildings in terms of space, layout and aesthetics, and is not focussed on the responsibility under the 1990 Act to preserve the asset and its features of special interest, which as we have said is not necessarily a straightforward set of elements.
In terms of the first floor fireplace; it would appear that the removal of the decorative ‘Edwardian’ fireplace could be justified (not in itself assessed in the report) but strangely the matching door detailing does not appear to be recommended for removal; should these be considered as a group? The insertion of the proposed new fireplace is of concern to us as it looks to equally unsuitable (i.e.it is not in the restrained builder's classical vernacular of the late 18th century enrichment of those houses) and the case officer should at least stipulate that it can be demonstrated not to be 'tainted' under the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 (n.b. the legislation calls an artefact tainted 'if it has been removed from a building or structure of historical, architectural or archaeological interest where the object has at any time formed part of the building or structure', i.e. being removed with consent, and/or from Scotland, doesn't remove the taint). Similarly no information is given in the heritage assessment regarding the cornice in the first floor room of no.7 which appears modern and whether there is any justification for its retention or replacement.
The same as above could be said for the wedding doors; we do not object to this change, but just wish that it could be properly assessed historically and justified. We draw the applicants’ attention to Sir Walter Mildmay’s meticulous and outstanding restoration of No 9 Lansdown Crescent. Reference to this might have helped in relation to fireplaces, cornices etc.
As we mentioned on the site visit, we would recommend that all the newer historic features and layers, idiosyncratic as they may be, are properly recorded before and if they are removed from the building. A room by room gazetteer explaining and justifying EITHER removal OR retention in terms of historic significance would aid the assessment of these major changes to a building of the highest significance.
The Coach House:
We object to the new build element of this part of the scheme on the ‘carport’ as we see it to be overdevelopment of this small plot, and most importantly that this will divorce the mews from its historic association with No.7, given that it is planned for the access to the mews from the house to be blocked off, especially if the mews house is ever sold on. The car port currently detracts from the setting of the listed buildings and is one of those ‘poor and confused’ modern additions already noted by the applicant, but in this case he is looking to retain it contrary to the spirit of approach in the house; given its impact on the setting we would prefer to see it removed. Should the officer not be minded to request this then there may be some leeway to develop the car part into a very small dwelling or office but we recommend that the access through the garden and to the mews is retained to maintain the functional historic group. We have no objection to Orangery but would comment that it is not really an orangery in the true meaning given that it not a delicate glazed garden building but has chunky double glazing and full insulation.
We are concerned at the possible future use of No.8 given that it is being laid out with several en-suites, and would request that a condition is made that the house cannot become a holiday let.
As already recorded, we are in general supportive of the reinstatement scheme but with some concerns over specific details and the breadth and quality of the heritage assessment and therefore submit this as a detailed comment.