Monday, 22 July 2013

Knowle: Victorian hotel: heritage asset or not...

English Heritage has decided that the former Knowle Hotel building is not of value enough to qualify for national listing:
Futures Forum: Knowle: Victorian hotel and grounds ..................... application to English Heritage for national listing 

English Heritage has, nevertheless, made it clear that the building is regarded as a heritage asset locally:
“The alterations that have occurred both to the gardens and the house mean that neither meets the criteria for designation in a national context, though they are evidently highly-valued by the local community.”
East Devon District Council - News
Knowle Public Consultation….another sample response. | Save Our Sidmouth 

Moreover, Save Britain's Heritage considers it to be of value:
"a handsome three-storey building" with internal features which "give the interior a grand and imposing feel."
SAVE Britain’s Heritage – Letter of Objection | Save Our Sidmouth 

The Victorian Society concurs:
"Given the status of The Knowle as a local landmark retaining many features of interest, the building should be considered a non-designated heritage asset." 
12/1847/MOUT | Outline application proposing demolition of existing buildings (retention of building B) for class D1 non-residential institution and park rangers station (Sui Generis), residential development of up to 50no. dwellings (Class C3 use), 60no. bed graduated care home (Class C2 use) and access (all matters reserved except access) | Council Offices Knowle Sidmouth EX10 8HL

And a former member of the Sidmouth Urban District Council considers the Knowle hotel and grounds a heritage asset:
‘Knowle is part of our heritage’ - News - Sidmouth Herald

Ultimately, however, it has been the view of English Heritage which has carried most weight with the District Council:
"Lack of architectural interest: though the building retains some attractive internal features and some earlier external building fabric, overall it does not demonstrate the high level of architectural design needed for a hotel building of this date. The earlier parts of the building have later additions of standard office buildings which further detract from this."
Vision Group for Sidmouth - Knowle: English Heritage: Notification of outcome of designation application

And indeed, the new draft Local Plan, whilst seeming to respect the integrity of the grounds and gardens, will not preserve the original building:
Futures Forum: Knowle plans: zones
Parts of Knowle spared in Local Plan changes - News - Sidmouth Herald

There are solid arguments for the replacement of the Victorian hotel:

> It is not of great architectural merit: it has been 'butchered beyond restoration'.

> The Council Chamber, the Members' Lounge, the Committee Room and the wooden internal staircase, on the other hand, would be of value.

> The demolition of much of the old building would free up the space for a design which could be of great advantage to all parties - including the current residents at Knowle Drive; this need not be restricted to the footprint and mass of the old building; new high quality flats and town houses  would sit well in the Knowle gardens. 
Saving the best of the old building would ensure a link with the past use and history of the site. 
Above all, good design - which is viable and sympathetic - will be of the essence: 
Unanimous NO to 'prison' flats in Sidmouth - News - Eastern Daily Press 

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