Jim Gowan’s West Hill Watch
Raising the roof!
This is not about wild parties in the West Hill Hall but about the number of planning applications seeking to increase accommodation on top of existing buildings in the conservation area, often by adding an extra storey. In recent years, the most notable example was Buckingham Lodge in Compton Avenue. In the last few months an application at 66 Buckingham Road has been approved, whilst there are now two applications under consideration in Upper Gloucester Road and a third in Bath Street. The Conservation Advisory Group (CAG) recommended approval of the application at 76 Upper Gloucester Road (next to Grocer and Grain), welcoming the proposed timber sash windows and natural slate roof but refusal for 58-59 Upper Gloucester Road, on the grounds that the proposed mansard roof would be too dominant, and of inappropriate style for the area. Permission has now been refused for 76 for reasons of cramped accommodation and loss of a family-size dwelling, whilst 58-59 is still under consideration. In Bath Street, Beau House cannot be said to live up to its name in its present condition and might possibly be improved by the proposed additional storey and balcony, which are yet to be considered by the CAG.
Fixing the Roof!
The end of terrace house 60 Dyke Road (at the corner of West Hill Road) now has an attractive slate roof, restoring its original 19th century appearance. The slates replace the concrete Redland tiles which were probably laid in the mid-20th century when the disadvantages of such tiles were not appreciated. Being heavier than slate, the concrete can cause the roof structure to sag, whilst the grit finish washes down, over time, into the gutters where it tends to settle, providing a growing medium for vegetation, which will then block the flow of water. In addition to having a new roof, the house has been repainted on the outside and graffiti removed. In Queen’s Road the Sussex Masonic Club, a listed building dating from the 1830s, is also having a new slate roof, again a replacement for non-original concrete tiles. The planning application included a proposal to cap the parapets and decorative mouldings with lead (to keep out the rain). On advice from the CAG and Council Heritage team, this has been withdrawn. Rather than protecting the masonry, lead capping can cause further damage by altering its moisture content, and at the same time the capping would have had a harmful visual impact on the façade. This is a lesson for householders in West Hill Road and West Hill Street (and Place) most of which have parapets; it is better to ensure that the integrity of the parapet is maintained and repaired with the correct render (often lime based) than it is to cover it with a (more expensive) lead coping.
Light Domes Removed
An application to convert a garage into habitable space at 1 Alfred Road has been approved by officers but only after the drawings were revised to remove the light domes proposed for the roof, which had been severely criticised by the CAG. A number of neighbours had objected on grounds of amenity, fearing that the proposed ‘studio’ might be used as a separate dwelling and party house. The planning permission does, however, make clear that such use would require a further application for permission to use the ‘studio’ in this way.