Lewes Forum thread

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This weeks Viva Lewes

On 21 Jan 2010 at 1:51pm Bert wrote:
Just where is this O'Connell centre they speak of???!!!!
On 21 Jan 2010 at 2:29pm Modern Architecture Buff wrote:
The Canon D'Donnell, is a very cleverly designed 100yr old building built in an unusual triangular plot just before you reach the prison crossroads at the top of Western Rd. It is a little difficult to appreciate what a good piece of architecture it is becuase the current owners are letting it deteriorate so they can claim it is 'derelict'. The Council seem to have been dragged kicking and screaming from their rotten borough status of ignoring or encouraging the demolition of the historic fabric of this town having been wholly and utterly embarassed (and deservedly so) by the Victorian Society. LDC have apparently acknowledged that the building is not dangerous, so the developer should stop using this naughty arguement to argue for its demolition. As usual local residents have had to do all the work to try and save this building which any normal town, historic or otherwise, would be delighted to have. Especially one that claims to appreciate the sophisticated modern architecture, which this building clearly was when first built. Properly renovated it would be a wonderful example of turn of the C20th style, of which there are very few examples in Lewes. It also sits very comfortably with the surrounding properties. Just take a look at the clever design of the rooflines.
Lewes District Council. Now recognised by surrounding Councils as a Rotten Borough. (yes its true, we are the talk of Sussex)
On 21 Jan 2010 at 2:38pm Off-message wrote:
Well that told us. Are you sure you weren't just posing as 'Bert, Modern Architecture Buff, so you could dazzle us with your expertise?
Good suggestion though: perhaps another local authority could buy it, remove it brick by brick (if someone on the Western Road side hasn't removed them all first), and restore it on a tricky triangular plot somewhere. Everyone's a winner babe: LDC get rid of a headache, the developer gets to develop, and some other authority get 'a wonderful example of turn of the C20th style'.
On 21 Jan 2010 at 2:54pm Modern Architecture Buff wrote:
Bert, do you want to tell the person above or shall I?. Ok. I have already!
Off-Message seems to be a little touchy, and also bad at detective work.
On 21 Jan 2010 at 4:10pm spartacus wrote:
I'm no particular fan of the developers and I'm sure the CO'D is a wonderful example of C20th... etc but if saved then what?.. what are we going to do with it? Please don't say an arts centre!
MAB - I've no dout that LDC are pretty crap, but what do you mean by "a Rotten Borough", I know what a rotten borough is in an historical context, but in this case you mean...? Expand please.
On 21 Jan 2010 at 4:29pm Sylvia wrote:
All I can say is that the Canon O'D building must be an acquired taste, which I've not acquired. I have always thought, and despite the eulogy above still think, it's a perfectly horrid building, even if its external appearance was tidied up. It's plain ugly.
On 21 Jan 2010 at 4:44pm Rookie wrote:
It's not a particularly charming building. But I bet the planned replacement is a whole lot worse.
On 21 Jan 2010 at 5:17pm Modern Architecture Buff wrote:
Art galleries are pointless, in my opinion, unless there is a desperate need. Lewes just lost one that originally no one wanted apart from Rees Elliot and LDC who between themselves approved it to circumvent a planning condition relating to public space. It is now empty.
One of the reasons the O'Donnell is such a great building is that it is so adaptable. Its just a well built and designed that has already got a large space in it, should that be needed. Or it could be neatly divided vertically, into housing, without much dicruption to the building, or even (and not what i would ideally like to see) be converted into multiple flats. Dare I say 'affordable'
It has appalling vehicular access on an already dangerous junction, so I see no logic in building even more flats there. And anyone with the environment in mind will understand the argument to 'reuse' beofre 'replacing'
A rotten borough is a Council which is disfunctional, and engages in questionable practice and/or incompetence. We all know what ours has been doing, ever since that poor woman in Lansdowne Place was unforgiveably harassed by out of control Council officers. What an embarassing advertisement of rotten-ness that was.
Sylvia. I quite understand that some people don't like the building. I don't LOVE it, I just personally appreciate some of the really good aspects of it, and thought it was worth explaining my perception. If you are interested I think it is particularly looking at how the original architect fitted it in with the surrounding buildings. Just look at the broken lines of the roof as you come from the prison side, which follow the lines of surrounding building heights. The unusual shapes this creates is actually very clever. The worst veiw of the building, is unfortunately that we see most at the moment which is th small entrance, damaged, and unloved. The sides are best, and have the most impact on neighbours. I wouldn't expect you to fall in love with it, but I think some peoplemay be underestimating how much better it would look without all the hoarding. Has anyone ever done a computer image of such a simple renovation?
Also depending on our ages, perceptions of a historic style change. I think this is a good example. After all, the Victorian Society agree, and weren't they something to do with John Betjemen who was trying to stop St Pancras from being demolished in the 60's when some people thought that was hideous?
What I do know is that when a developer and LDC planners get together, we are most likely to get bad box ticking architecture that defies policies, and is neither good and modern, or sympathetic and enhancing of what we already have.
------Lewes District Council. Now recognised by surrounding Councils as a Rotten Borough. (yes its true, we are the talk of Sussex)--------

On 21 Jan 2010 at 7:34pm Brixtonbelle wrote:
Thanks MAB very interesting. Often wondered about that building. So who owns it now and what are the proposals ? I would have thought as residential redevelopment the
size of the rooms would be good and also make interesting spaces, if done sympathetically. Is the building listed by English Heritage ?
On 21 Jan 2010 at 8:04pm Glenda wrote:
Awful building, really ugly, and if the residents of Western Road really wanted it, why did they not support it when it was open? By the way, it is owned by St Pancras Church. The Pewter Pot (the Meridian, for all you DFL's) will go the same way, but none of you want to support these places and that is why they go.
On 21 Jan 2010 at 8:29pm Off-Message wrote:
'By the way' Glenda it is not owned by St. Pancras Church. It is owned by some Brighton-based developer.
On 21 Jan 2010 at 8:32pm leaf wrote:
St pancras dont own it they sold it.
On 21 Jan 2010 at 9:02pm LTR wrote:
What is ugly, is someone using the name 'Glenda' inappropriately, and not even getting their facts right.! You should work for our rotten planning department....if you don't already. Trying to sir up trouble between people who are sad about the Pewter Pot with those who are worried about the o'Donnell ( it is possible to actually care about both!) is even uglier....oh and is something we know that our planning department also does, often by accident when they get in a mess trying to explain their inconsistent their activities. yes LDC we know about that too!
No one uses the castle for defending the town, perhaps "Glenda' thinks we should knock that down too.
On 21 Jan 2010 at 9:06pm Resident wrote:
Well said Glenda.
On 21 Jan 2010 at 9:16pm LTR wrote:
Resident, could you explain why a building should be demolished, because no one wants to use it as a pub or community centre?
Maybe you should read some planning policies?
On 21 Jan 2010 at 9:34pm resident wrote:
People are so quick to criticise decisions made but dont support until it's to late.
Tell me what you would have wanted the building to be if it wasn't being used as a public house. Would it have cost more to repair it ? from what i heard it would have needed some serious money spent on it.
On 22 Jan 2010 at 8:34am Prick Stein wrote:
Surely it's the Roman Empires fault for selling the Daniel O'Donnell building in the first place?! Boo, hiss!
On 22 Jan 2010 at 12:43pm Resident2 wrote:
It's certainly a shame that they failed to maintain or protect its future for their poor neighbours. I am a bit mystified as to why they have been allowed to use a completely alien coloured brick in their otherwise pretty good (imo) extension.
The Mitre was surely doomed as a pub, but plans to overdelop the site, in a highly insensitive, impractical, and greedy way, wouldn't have got past the starting post in any other District.
On 22 Jan 2010 at 1:11pm Taff wrote:
I always thought the Mitre was a pretty good joint!
Baker street Brighton isnt it?
On 22 Jan 2010 at 1:23pm Glenda wrote:
I wonder how many people who live in the new houses in Western Road, realise that they were built on land where a fantastic building used to be (mock-tudor I believe, but still quite attractive-Caffyns garage?). How many of you complaining realise this? It wasn't that long ago that it was demolished, but I can't rememember much public dissent then. I think a lot of this opposition is from the DFL's, who have no idea what we had before.
On 22 Jan 2010 at 1:25pm Glenda wrote:
By the way, LTR, why am I using the name Glenda inappropriately? It is my name after all.
On 22 Jan 2010 at 1:51pm Prick Stein wrote:
Well done Glenda, spot on. Caffyns building was hideous though imo.
On 22 Jan 2010 at 1:53pm Off-Message wrote:
The former Caffyns building on Western Road was nothing special as indeed is very little mock-tudor anywhere (perhaps with the exception of Liberty's in London but perhaps Modern Architecture Buff could give us a lesson about that). I did manage however FWIW to salvage the fire bell from the former Caffyns garage before it was knocked down to make way for those faux Victorian terraces. The latter were 'developed' by the current owner of the Canon O'Donnell - not a good sign.
On 22 Jan 2010 at 2:58pm Modern Architecture Buff wrote:
Quite happy to give you a lesson. Lewes is particularly special because it contains a solid mass of different provincial styles, in a town layout almost completely undistrurbed by bombing, and the 1960's obsession with mass demolition of the old in favour of the new. Alec Clifton-Taylor rightly pointed out that although there were few individually significant buildings in Lewes, it was their group value that was so special. Numerous historic bodies single out Lewes for similar reasons. Unfortunately for Mock-Tudor haters, that includes the 1910-1939period.I personally love a bit of mock-tudor, or 'stockbroker-belt-tudor' as the well known architectural humorist Osbert Lancaster described it. Particularly in a town where you can contrast it with real tudor. The Caffyyns garage building should have, and could have easily been included in a re-devlopment plan, I understand that even our Councillors are embarassed by the lacklustre colourless development that replaced it. Not a good pastiche, good modern, or clever sensitive traditional development. (Apologies to any owners/inhabitants)
The first rule of redeveloping areas with the conservation status of Lewes is you re-use existing buildings if you can. This does not mean you create a Museum. If Planners don't like the restrictions of working in such a sensitive area, and don't like adhering to conervation policies they should either lump it, and be professional, or move to somewhere with more scope for exciting planning opportunities. Personal biased officer opinion, such as we regularly see in planning reports is actuall not allowed, and can jeopardise the validity of decision making. i am frankly amazed, having kept an eye on these reports, that no one on the planning Commitee, or even worse the Councils Planning Lawyer, has ever pointed this out.
the point is that taste in building design, and period styles is down to individual taste, but planning policy isn't. Planning policy should be being used by Councillors and Officers to protect the environment, especially now that in addition to everything else, we are all in a National Park.There is no need whatsoever to demolish robust historic buildings and anyone with half a brain would realise that the main financial asset of Lewes is its historic environment.. Whether you like it or loathe it, history is money, and we have more than most towns in the UK. There are some places where a building of any style from 1914 would be the town treasure. It seems that familiarity can breed contempt. Where would t Bills, Harveys, Needlemakers, and a host of other successful local businesses be if they weren't in the same surroundings. Any other Council would be raking in the cash hiring lewes out as a filming location.
On 22 Jan 2010 at 3:37pm Sherlock wrote:
Congratulations Buff for one of the most interesting and informative posts I've seen on the Forum (i.e. I agree with it) and for sticking it to the lacklustre District Council. Perhaps the retirement of the chief executive (and hopefully the planning director) and National Park status will enable a fresh start.
On 22 Jan 2010 at 9:03pm Off-Message wrote:
Well I've got to hand it to you Buff, you do seem to know what you're talking about. Perhaps you could (or maybe you already do) offer your knowledge and enthusiasm to the Friends of Lewes - they always need keen volunteers to look at and comment on planning policies and applications from a conservation-minded perspective.
On 23 Jan 2010 at 8:00am Chuck wrote:
I think Buff works in Planning. Morning Lindsey.
On 23 Jan 2010 at 6:01pm pete the plasterer wrote:
Seems a touch unlikely that that LDC's Director of Planning would show their face in such a den of iniquity, mistruth and libelous slander as The Lewes Forum.
On 23 Jan 2010 at 6:30pm Annette Curtin-Twitcher wrote:
Very interesting stuff, MAB.
I have an awful fear that there will be a big push to get consent for unsympathetic developments through before the national park is in charge of planning.
On 23 Jan 2010 at 10:28pm Down and Out wrote:
"The first rule of redeveloping areas with the conservation status of Lewes is you re-use existing buildings if you can"
The thing that irks about this position is that it presupposes that all new development is worse than all old development. The point is that this is not an attitude which was shared by the people - the Georgians and Victorians - who built our town and made it into what we now think is beautiful. They demolished whatever they hell they wanted without any regard for conservation. So this process which made Lewes such an architecturally rich environment is exactly what the conservationists are trying to stop. What makes Lewes beautiful is that it is a collage of historical styles. This has to be an ongoing history and not something which ground to a halt in 1930. We need to be able to have a grown-up debate about which old buildings are worth saving and which contribute little to the townscape.
It's worth remembering that, generally, people are opposed to the contemporary and always have been. Not many people know that Wren was sacked on completion of St Pauls because the building was considered a 'modern' disgrace, or that the prime minister of the day suggested that Pugin should be hanged for the design of the Palace of Westminster. Now, most people seem to think that St Pauls and the Houses of Parliament have some architectural merit.
This is not, of course, to say that all contemporary development is good, but I'd rather live in a world that took some risks than in one pickled in aspic.
On 24 Jan 2010 at 1:05pm Prick Stein wrote:
At last a sensible post by someone without there head in the sand!
On 25 Jan 2010 at 9:18am realist wrote:
The problem is that we live in a world where everything has become a commodity and profit rules. Any humanising protection in terms of repecting people's dignity and basic human rights has been completely sidestepped. Put simply we have lost our ability to see beyond the money incentive in order to weigh up how something would serve, make comfortable or provide beauty for human beings.
This is ofcourse true of property developers in spades. They are aided by the peculiar - and politically encouraged - habit we have of using our houses as cash registers
New houses are built that frankly are little larger metaphorically speaking than prison cells; they are an affront to human dignity. New houses are built of materials so shoddy that wear and tear is apparent almost immediately - think Printworks amongst many other stand - out examples in Lewes.
New houses are built whose fabric and design pays no attention to their surroundings; these are the product of cheap generic design. We cannot expect good contemporary build in this climate; profit rules. And aesthetics cost money.
So, it seems to me that at present all we can do is try to stop the worst of the shocking shonky excesses and perhaps accept in the meantime reasonable pastiches that still keep some pale reflection of human dignity and good human design.
By definition, contemporary design unless it costs an absolute packet - and even this often reflects hubris and self indulgence on the part of the architect - has to be uninspired and not fit for purpose because building shelter for people has become solely concerned with sharp immediate profit.
I'm afaid it is unlikely that any Le Corbusiers will be delivering excellent design onto the streets of lewes any time soon.
I love the thought of modern intelligent creativity but in this febrile climate it's not going to happen....
On 25 Jan 2010 at 10:07am Annette Curtin-Twitcher wrote:
Fab post, realist.
It makes me laugh when developers bleat on and on that people need homes and that we should allow building on greenfield sites/green belt/conservation areas etc. Mysteriously, this need for homes seems to evaporate in a recession, and they shut up.
If they were that concerned about housing shortages, they'd be busy building homes to rent to the poor sods who are having their homes repossessed because they've been made redundant and settle for taking a while longer to recoup their investment. Their attempts to pose as altruists in boom times is pathetic.
On 25 Jan 2010 at 12:20pm Down and Out wrote:
Can we drop this daft myth that profit-crazed developers are a recent thing?
The reason John Nash used cream-coloured render on the Georgian terraces overlooking Regent's Park was that he was too miserly to use stone, but wanted to ape the effect of stone in the cheapest way he could. What he did then became fashionable. Under that render is the cheapest brick known to man. Ask any builder who has worked on that type of property - they are constantly in need of patching up to stop cracks. Why do houses like those on Albion Street have cornices and mouldings on the front but not the back?Again, it's all about a pretence of quality at the lowest cost. Do you think Palladio just decorated one facade? Hardly.
Cost-cutting and profit chasing - twas ever thus.
On 25 Jan 2010 at 9:52pm Brixtonbelle wrote:
Our former victorian terrace was, in the words of one builder, 'gerry-built'. But the Victorians still manage to build houses that last for over 100 years, ditto georgian and probably edwardian. What amazes is me is that the lessons of the past re things like damp proofing aren't learnt. We are now creating houses that are like sealed units in terms of insulation and heating, but which (in the case of the modern place we live now) are plagued by condensation and mould, even when we keep the window open in freezing weather. We could do well by looking at older building methods to build new places that would actually last.!
On 26 Jan 2010 at 8:39am Annette Curtin-Twitcher wrote:
Old houses didn't get problems from condensation because they were cold and draughty, BB - would you really like to go back to that?
I don't get why modern houses suffer so badly though. We keep our 1936 house toasty warm, and we don't get mould and stuff. I wonder if it's something timver framed buildings are more prone to, that's how they seem to build most of them now.
On 26 Jan 2010 at 12:55pm Brixtonbelle wrote:
You're right ACT - except of course we intsalled gch into our old house and used lots fo rugs and a real fire to keep warm. But the inherent nature iof the house with draughts, cracks in floorboards and ancient airbricks seemed to work in keeping away damp and mould. And we didn't have a damp course either- just a rill of gravel around the base of the exterior walls (suggested by a savvy architect) - saved a fortune in installing a damp course !
On 28 Jan 2010 at 7:46pm Modern Architecture Buff wrote:
Down and Out. I don't disagree with you that a good modern building may well be better than a crappy old one, but that is our opinion, it is not fact and people have different opinions.
What I am trying to draw attention to are the plus points about a bulding that they may have missed, and that the point of living in a democracy with policies concerning Conservation Areas, and how to protect them, is that we have to adhere to them, not ignore them when inconvenient, that is a judgementcall that is not ours to make, and certainly isn't the Planning officers of LDC to make. It seems however that they have been doing this. Whether we, or they like it or not most of Lewes is protected by legislation, and I can guarantee that you and I would be the first to rely on it, if it was going to help stop something we didn't like. What is disturbing is that this legislation is being ignored, or distorted in nukerous examples that I have found, yet never to the benefit of the historic environment, but always to the benefit of a developer, or the Council. Now why is that?
This thread demonstrates that Lewes Forum readers, including yourself, understand more about the issues than our Officers. And these posts certainly demonstrate a RANGE of views, as opposed to the pre rehearsed goings on at PAC meetings. It is hardly surprising that our District Council's reputation is so bad. Anyone visiting such a meeting must wonder why we have them when there is rarely any relevent discussion. You only have to go to a meeting in a different district to realise how low the standards are in ours. As I said before, it is mystifying as to why our PAC members are not spotting obvious problems with applicationsan reports. is it just that they have very low standards?
Anyway, I was driving past 'the building in question ' today and it occurred to me that the main door frontage seems to have been inspired by the castle. It has the same kind of angled effect, and the otherwise unnecessary buttresses, which is perhaps why it has such a robust appearance.
On 29 Jan 2010 at 9:19am Annette Curtin-Twitcher wrote:
Are there any modern buildings in Lewes that are generally liked?
I'm rather fond of the semi-detached houses in South Street, with the steel staircases. When seen from the river, they look rather good, imo. They remind me of a giant bow-topped gipsy van.
On 29 Jan 2010 at 12:06pm Prick Stein wrote:
I like the semi-detached dwellings down Grange Road, modern architecture at it's finest, i agree that the properties down South Street are fantastic! We need a bit more 'good quality' modern design in Lewes, the town must carry on evolving or it will stagnate and die.
On 29 Jan 2010 at 1:55pm Off-Message wrote:
Must admit I like the English Nature (or Natural England as we're supposed to call it these days) building on North Street. The only 50s/60s/70s-era building in Lewes I can think of which is aesthetically pleasing.
On 29 Jan 2010 at 2:13pm Sherlock wrote:
Quit agree Off-Message. Wasn't it going to be demolished in the late and unlamented Style's plan for the area?
On 29 Jan 2010 at 3:52pm Down and Out wrote:
Good call, Off-Message. I like the St Pancras school extension, although not the same architects' extension to the church. I also quite liked the proposed Harvey's Depot scheme (believe or not!). I think the townscape would have been quite improved by a 'gateway' building on that corner.

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