Bid to safeguard Southwold’s heritage assets

Craven Cottage in Pier Avenue.

Craven Cottage in Pier Avenue. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Action is being taken to protect Southwold's most historic buildings against the threat of potentially-damaging development.

Southwold Town Council is hoping to register properties of local importance as 'heritage assets'.

The move would give added planning protection to buildings that are important to Southwold's history but are outside the conservation area or lack listed status.

Will Windell, chairman of the town council's planning and development committee, said the move was prompted by a wave of planning applications relating to locally-important properties.

He called on people to help the council compile the heritage asset register, held by Waveney District Council.

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He said: 'It's an ongoing process and we are actively looking for properties that need some kind of protection. It takes a bit of research and we want people to tell us if they think a building should be on the register as well.

'Unfortunately, it's only when a planning application comes in that we realise it's under threat. We take for granted what we have here around us.'

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Among the buildings the council would like to protect are Craven Cottage and a thatched cottage in Pier Avenue, which were built as part of the arts and crafts movement, and Providence Cottage in South Green, which has an outbuilding in its grounds that is believed to be a traditional netting shed.

Corporation Cottages, near St Edmund's Church, are thought to be the first social housing in the country and have also been identified as being of local importance.

At present, Southwold's conservation area does not include Pier Avenue, despite repeated requests by the town council to Waveney to extend it.

Renovation plans for Craven Cottage were approved in February and include a single-storey side extension, new roof lights, a rear extension to provide a glazed pavilion with raised decking area and the removal of a chimney stack. The property is not listed but has been identified as being of 'historical and architectural interest' in a report by Waveney planning officer Iain Robertson.

The owners of Providence Cottage want to convert an outbuilding – identified locally as a netting shed and currently used as a garage – into a utility room and guest accommodation, with the addition of a glass walkway from the main house.

The proposals also include raising the height of the outbuilding's single-pitched, lean-to-style roof and replacing it with a double pitch roof.

The applicants have launched a planning appeal after permission was refused by Waveney in January on the grounds that the work would detract from the character of the outbuilding and impact negatively on the cottage and wider area.

They are disputing the claim the outbuilding is a former netting shed and a report written for the applicants by heritage consultant Samuel Abelman suggests it was originally a stable, although a design and access statement submitted with the original application indicates it was once a cottage with a double pitched roof.

Built in 1800, Providence Cottage is Grade II listed and is already in the Southwold conservation area.

However, Mr Windell said the status of the outbuilding was open to interpretation by planners.

He said the single-pitched roof suggested that the building had been used to hang nets, similar to the double height sail loft next to the Dutch Barn in Ferry Road, and people living locally said it had always been considered a netting shed.

'It is all part of the our heritage as a fishing port,' he said. 'We have to look after it because once it is gone it is gone.'

Mr Windell said the high number of second homes in Southwold meant that planning applications often went through without objection because people who were not permanent residents did not always know what was happening next door.

He said town councillors were forced to give applications their approval if there were no local objections and no material planning reasons for refusal.

He added: 'There was no planning reason to refuse the application for Craven Cottage but, at the same time, it is changing the whole character of the building. The owners have received permission and are taking down the chimney and there is nothing we can do at the moment.

'If these buildings were on the heritage asset register, we could quote that as a reason for refusal.

'The other problem is that the National Trust have this idea that if there is going to be an extension then they want it to be contemporary and totally different to the original building. Some may say it should be in-keeping with what is already there.'

?To recommend a building for inclusion on the Southwold heritage asset register, ring the town council on 01502 722576

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