Glover’s Farm – ‘valuable heritage asset’ – allowed to fall into disrepair as Sea Change looks the other way?

September 23, 2014 by combehavendefenders

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen Sea Change Sussex applied for permission to build the Gateway Road and ‘Bexhill Enterprise Park‘, it decided that historic Glover’s Farm was in the way, and proposed to demolish it.  Rother Council’s planning committee had other ideas, and said it had to be preserved.  Glover’s Farm is still standing, but are Sea Change are allowing it to deteriorate to such an extent that at some point, the only option left may be demolition?

Vandalism and neglect

The farmhouse – on Glover’s Lane just to the east of the Link Road route on the outskirts of Bexhill – has been standing empty for some time, and has been allowed to fall into disrepair.  Windows have been smashed, people have been entering the house regularly and the roof is falling in.  A few weeks ago, the windows were boarded up, but until that point Sea Change appeared to have done nothing to protect this historic building.

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Glover’s Farm in summer 2013

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‘Significant heritage asset’

As part of the statutory report to the planning committee, the County Archaeologist requested a historic building survey of the farmhouse by D and B Martin, experts in historic buildings in East Sussex.

Their survey found that:

‘Glovers Farm farmhouse is a significant, non-designated heritage asset
because of its archaeological, architectural, artistic and historical interest and that its proposed demolition would be harmful to these aspects.

The farm house was constructed in the mid-17th century and is a good and relatively rare example in Rother District of a 2-cell timber-framed house… Other examples of farm houses of this date in Rother District (such as Bynes Farm, Crowhurst) are Listed Grade II.

Glovers Farm House is one of only three known surviving rural houses built between 1566 and 1665 in Bexhill parish. The end outshut lean-to is of real interest and paralleled in only a few other known examples.

Glovers Farm and the Farm House represent physical links to the
builders, occupiers, families and the business use of farming, contributing to the area’s unique sense of place and cultural identity.

If it were to be proven that it was absolutely necessary to demolish the farmhouse, other ways of preserving the fabric (i.e. by re-sitting) should be fully considered.’

Sea Change makes its case…

Sea Change, for its part, commissioned its own report into the archaeological importance of Glover’s Farm and whether it could be considered for listed building status.  The report concluded that whilst the farmhouse was of ‘some local importance’, ‘it is considered that the farmhouse of Glovers Farm is not a good example of vernacular domestic building in a wider national context and would not warrant listing….the farmhouse of Glovers Farm cannot be considered to be a site which possesses ‘special architectural or historic interest’’.

As a result of this, in the Environmental Statement submitted as part of the planning application, Sea Change concludes that there are ‘No cultural heritage effects’ to the entire proposed development, and goes on to say that ‘It is proposed to demolish the house however the farmhouse will be recorded prior to demolition.’

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Sea Change’s masterplan for the ‘Bexhill Enterprise Park’. Glover’s Farm is located in the bottom left and on this map has been replaced with a car park

But the planners disagree
However, the planning report says, ‘…the County Archaeologist disagrees with this view and so do your officers regarding the demolition of the Glovers Farm
farmhouse. It is considered that the Farmhouse, its walled garden and
19th Century barn are a valuable non-listed heritage asset and their future
should be considered as part of detailed design proposals… The recommendation to the planning committee is that they should grant planning permission, but should not allow the demolition of Glover’s Farm.’

The decision

Rother Council planning committee accepted this advice, and its decision notice includes the following condition:

‘The demolition of the modern agricultural buildings within the application site is hereby approved. The demolition of Glovers Farm house, its walled garden and adjacent 19th century barn is not approved and shall be the subject of Archaeological Investigation and a programme of archaeological works

Powerless council

Despite Rother Council ordering that the building should be preserved, there would appear to be little they can do to stop Sea Change letting it fall into disrepair.  The council told us that if it were a listed building, they would have powers to enforce its proper upkeep.  However, as an unlisted building – albeit one of historical importance – there is little they can do unless it is considered a ‘detriment to the amenity’ of the neighbourhood – in other words, an eyesore.  However, since Glover’s Farm is not within sight of any residential areas, it could be argued that its neglect is not a detriment.

Sea Change’s response

For its part, Sea Change says, ‘We are doing all we can to protect the farm building from vandalism.  We have arranged for the farm house to be boarded up on more than one occasion but there are limits to what can be achieved if people are intent on breaking in’.

It could be suggested that with the millions of pounds being thrown at the Gateway Road and ‘Enterprise Park’ (most of it public money), Sea Change could afford to hire a security guard to protect Glover’s Farm.  That it has not done so says much about the company’s priorities.

 

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