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New Forest planners reject Burley man's bid to rebuild 'rotten' cottage

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Lester Cottage in Mill Lane, Burley
Lester Cottage in Mill Lane, Burley

THE owner of a damp and rotting New Forest cottage has lost his attempt to demolish and replace it with a new home in a bid to save almost £100k on repair costs.

Alan Jupe’s second application since 2016 was for a replacement dwelling, re-roofing and cladding to a detached garage, driveway extension and the creation of a patio at Lester Cottage in Mill Lane, Burley.

It was rejected by planning committee members who went along with their officer’s recommendation to refuse.

They heard it would cost £92,000 less to rebuild the property than to repair it.

“The applicant has bought it for too high a price and has thought: ‘the only way I can get my money back is to knock it down’,” said John Sanger during debate at the recent meeting.

NPA executive director Steve Avery agreed, saying: “We see this on other sites where someone buys a property and sits and lets it go vacant then say: ‘sorry we have no choice but to knock it down’.”

The meeting heard the dwelling, described in case officer Kate McIntyre’s report as a typical New Forest cottage on the edge of the open Forest and within the Burley Conservation Area, had commoners’ rights and an agricultural yard where a new building had been erected without planning permission.

It was characteristic of a circa 1900 brick-built, modest two-storey forest cottage, the report added, and the officer did not consider that its demolition could be justified.

A computer-generated image of the proposed replacement cottage
A computer-generated image of the proposed replacement cottage

“It is of local interest and contributes positively to the character and appearance of [the area] as an undesignated heritage asset,” Ms McIntyre said.

“It is noted that the costs to rebuild are cheaper than to repair and retain the building but it remains the case that the building is capable of being restored and is not beyond repair.”

However, Julian Boswell, architect and agent for the applicant, said the existing structure was “an example of poor construction” which reflected the Forest’s history.

The new design would echo some of the existing features of the dwelling which had not been occupied since being purchased by the owner, he said. The building was not underpinned and its interior had been stripped.

Burley Parish Council recommended permission with member Cllr Robert Clarke saying at the meeting that the conservation officer was not being “realistic” about the case.

“As a chartered surveyor I’m particularly disappointed we are discussing this proposal as it seems to fly in the face of worthwhile professional judgement,” he said.

“We can see the effect of dampness, rot and movement of the structure. The current owners would have been aware of this.

“We need to be realistic about what is and is not worth conserving. Are we being unduly possessive of the wreckage of a bygone age? This has degenerated over time.”

Barry Rickman said: “This was owned for years by a commoning family and when I visited in the 60s it was damp then! It was a working commoners’ yard, he had tractors, turners, harrowing equipment. What they achieved then in the Forest with what they had was phenomenal.

“We have an application to replace it with something that looks right and moves everything forward.”

Proposing approval, Richard Frampton said: “The whole thing hinges on the conservation officer as to whether or not this has merit. I think the new design is more in the vernacular of Burley. The building is just a boring box, there’s nothing special about it.

“If we say no today in a year’s time we will be looking at a non-designated site of rubble – it’s going to fall down. If it’s cheaper to rebuild and they are using the old materials in the new design we will be left with a good example of how we have slotted a modern design into the conservation area.”

But his proposal was voted down and Mr Sanger said: “Were it not a conservation area rebuild, a building of local value, that would be fine but that’s not the case. Our officers have spent a considerable amount of time looking at the building – this is not subjective.”

Members voted six to four to refuse the scheme.

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