Bid to knock down “historic” former bar in Southwold rejected

Proposals to demolish a landmark Southwold building have been thrown out by planners.

Proposals had been submitted to Waveney District Council to tear down the former Casa Mia Piano Bar on Ferry Road – also known locally as the Dutch Barn – and build two homes and a caf� in its place.

But the application put forward by its owner, Chris Buck, has been refused by planning officers at Waveney. They said the property was considered an important asset to the town's character, the new development would not be in keeping with the area and that the proposed new homes would be on land at high risk of flooding.

The decision was welcomed this week by Emily Whalley who has been campaigning to save the 'historic' building, which is believed to date back to about 1840 and lies in a conservation zone.

Ms Whalley, an artist who lives next to the Dutch Barn, had tried to get it listed by English Heritage in an effort to save it. But although that bid failed, she was pleased that planners had recognised its importance.

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Mrs Whalley, who has lived in Ferry Road for nearly 30 years, said: 'It is fantastic news. It was definitely worth fighting to keep it. I am pleased the council came up with plenty of reasons and issues to keep it and not have it knocked down and replaced. I have proved it is historic and a part of Southwold's heritage.'

She added: 'People's support in the town has been amazing and they have shown they do want that building kept.'

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Mrs Whalley said although she was sad the former Casa Mia Piano Bar remained empty, she remained hopeful someone in the area would buy it and open it up as some sort of venue or business.

The details of the decision to refuse Mr Buck's plans is set out in two letters by Philip Ridley, Waveney's head of planning services. The first says: 'Although this building is not highlighted with the conservation area appraisal (2008) as being of local importance, it is considered to add to the character of the conservation area and has historic significance to the local area and community. It is therefore considered to be a non-designated heritage asset and its loss would be detrimental to the character and appearance of the conservation area.'

Mr Ridley adds that the building is 'a prominent site with the Southwold conservation area'.

His second letter relates to the proposed construction of two homes and seasonal caf� on the site once the Dutch Barn had been demolished. It says the plans are considered a 'new development' and, as the properties proposed would not replace existing homes, they cannot be built in flood-risk area.

It goes on to say the scale of the proposed homes and caf� is out of keeping with the area and would have a detrimental impact on the conservation zone and an area of outstanding natural beauty.

In 2006, Casa Mia opened and was run by its owner, singer-songwriter Ed Darragh.

In the past, the building was used by wherry sail-makers and it was also a temporary base in the second world war for parachute packers and camouflage makers. In the 1950s and 1960s it became a popular eatery known as the Old Dutch Barn and was visited by Princess Margaret and writer and broadcaster Michael Palin.

Mr Buck, who bought the site in 2009, has the right to appeal the two refusal decisions.

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