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St Anne’s Hollington again threatened with demolition

Unlike many of the borough’s buildings, St Anne’s church in Chambers Road Hollington is mentioned in the Pevsner authoritative architectural guide. A new planning application continues the threat of demolition. Three previous proposals were reported in HOT. Protection for the church has been nonexistent: no listing, no local listing, e.g. Why did Hastings Borough Council (HBC) not impose Article 4 Direction to save an exceptional building? Bernard McGinley tries to find out.

The new application is HS/FA/24/00239:

Demolition of redundant church and erection of five dwellings with some on-site parking | Mission Church (St Annes), 11 Chambers Road, St Leonards-on-sea, TN38 9HY

The new dwellings are all market (not affordable) housing. The Design and Access Statement (DAS) states brazenly and patronisingly:

The site is surrounded by post war residential dwelling, two storey in nature with shallow roofs and little Architectural merit.

The next paragraph opens:

The proposed residential units have been design to reflect the existing street scene as identified in the previous (refused) application.

This makes no sense. Later the DAS alleges:

A transport and parking survey has identified that sufficient on street parking is available to meet the demands of the proposed development.

However the survey is not on the case file, and pavement parking in Chambers Road is frequent.

Conservation Officer contortions

A telling aspect of the application is that the Council’s Conservation Officer reaches a finding of

No objection — no harm.

This is inconsistency amounting to cynicism. In September 2022 re case HS/FA/22/00028, a different Conservation Officer found

Objection — substantial harm.

Pevsner and heritage (courtesy

There are only four options on the summary scale. The case went from one end of the scale to the opposite end, without explanation. Obviously being in Pevsner counts for nothing, not even to nudge the officer to consider carefully. It’s as if the character or appearance of Hollington doesn’t matter, or Pevsner isn’t heritage, and carefully designated too: in the 1990s English Heritage, with Penguin, published Looking at Buildings, a sort of sampler based on the Pevsner guides. The intended rollout did not happen, but clearly heritage and Pevsner and English Heritage go together.

Historic England mistake

Historic England (HE) began the process of considering St Anne’s for designation but did not even visit the church, so did not see the elegant tower or spacious interior, or the fine windows, with stained glass by Marjorie Incledon. Then HE decided to reject it for listing, at the initial assessment.

In September 2022 the HBC Conservation Officer wrote:

Over time, its historic significance is likely to increase, meaning that it will become a more valuable heritage asset, perhaps meeting the criteria for national listing, at some stage in the future. The church should therefore be regarded as a non-designated heritage asset and a material consideration in any planning decision. We should also ascribe value to it as a potential listed building for the future.

This application should therefore be assessed against the heritage policies in paras.189-208 of the NPPF and adopted Local Plan policies EN1, HN3 and HN5.

Local list

The later Conservation Officer states of the present application:

Several heritage bodies have identified the church  as being a non-designated heritage asset and worthy of local listing.

As well as HE recognition there can be local lists, where local planning authorities (LPAs) do their own recognition. Local Lists are non-statutory however, and offer limited protection. (See Policy HN5 of the HBC Development Management Plan.)

Apparently St Anne’s is not local listed. Apart from the distinction of listing in Pevsner, it  has no formal recognition of its qualities. Neither elected members nor planning officers have protected Denman’s graceful building. Could they yet? Possibly, if they tried, or cared.

The first of the four cases relating to St Anne’s was HS/FA/22/00028. This was Refused (9 votes to one) by the Planning Committee of September 2022 because of:

1  poor design that would harmfully affect the character and appearance of the area, contrary to national and local policies

2  inadequate bin facilities

3  loss of a community facility

4  total loss of a building of local architectural and communal significance.

Delegated decisions

Cases HS/DM/22/00835 and HS/FA/23/00448 were decided on a delegated basis (that is, by planning officers) in November 2022 and August 2023 respectively.

HS/DM/22/00835 was for ‘Notification for prior approval for demolition of redundant church building’. The HBC Conservation Officer did not comment on it. Instead the Council accepted the assertion of ‘prior approval’ and ‘permitted development rights’ (‘PDR’) despite the disputed and controversial basis of both the application and the administrative device.

The decision was made without public consultation. Demolition of a building recognised by Pevsner as important was defined as not-development. The only issues (according to HBC planners) were the method of demolition and any intended remedial works. The thoroughgoing procedural horlicks was ignored. Council officers could have sent back the defective demolition application and sought protected status for the building. They did neither.

This delegated decision allowed the committee decision on HS/FA/22/00028 to be got round. A debate can be had on whether a ‘prior approval’ application was a suitable or dubious device here, and how well the planning system serves its function.

HS/FA/23/00448 was for the usual demolition and five dwellings and on-site parking, and refused by officers for reasons including poor design, bin facilities and parking.

Article 4 Direction

A remedy was pointed out by the 20th Century Society and Historic Buildings & Places (HB&P), both national advisory bodies: to issue Article 4 Direction for St Anne’s, to bar ‘permitted development rights’ and ensure that the historic building lasts to benefit current and future generations. HB&P (formerly the Ancient Monuments Society) objected in November 2022 to application HS/DM/22/00835:

Historic Buildings and Places recently objected to planning application HS/FA/22/00028 for the demolition and redevelopment of the church, which your Authority subsequently refused, as the application ‘would result in the total loss of a building of local architectural and communal significance, which has been identified as an undesignated heritage asset. This loss of the heritage asset has not been clearly or convincingly justified’.

Our opinion has not changed, and we continue to believe there is a sustainable future for the redundant church building, which could be converted for another community or residential use. The use of permitted development rights to demolish a heritage asset is extremely disappointing and seeks to undermine your Authority’s assessment of the building and the decision-making process.

In May 2024 the Conservation Officer wrote that the present application is not subject to Article 4 direction: well whose fault is that? This is the same one whose ‘no harm’ statements on demolition applications were and are curt evasions. The outcry over St Anne’s was extensive, including in Private Eye No 1588 (Christmas 2022).

(Despite the apparent waste of two years, the ‘prior approval’ need not prevent a separate Council determination – with evidence – that the building is a community asset.  That also needs a community group however.  Nor is it clear that protected species – such as bats – aren’t on site.)

Denman & Son

For the present, St Anne’s remains one of the best buildings in Hollington and the borough. Conversion to residential use remains a possibility, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF, now para 157), though this was ignored in the delegated/committee reports. Hastings needs homes, and a repurposed building would provide them.

The flints of Richard Cromwell Carpenter, previously used in Brighton

The church-turned-gym was designed by  J L Denman of the Brighton-based firm of Denman & Son, whose work is growing in recognition. It is a light, flint-and-brick, arts-and-crafts building from 1956, the flints salvaged from war-damaged All Saints church, Seven Dials, Brighton. The recycling aspect is noteworthy (anticipating the NPPF on the conversion of existing buildings), so parts of it date from 1852.


While it stands the church can be formally registered by HBC as a non-designated heritage asset (NDHA). That probably won’t happen (though it could, like Article 4), and indicates the Council’s chronic lack of civic pride. Let the record show that they did not continue to defend Denman’s gem.

What the Council wrote in its decision letter on HS/FA/22/00028 remains true:

The loss of the heritage asset has not been clearly and convincingly justified, and the proposed replacement buildings are of insufficient quality to make a positive contribution to the area.

The present application is for a drab block under a single roof. It is not known when it will be decided. Comments on case HS/FA/24/00239 can be made to the Council’s development control:

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Posted 18:54 Saturday, May 11, 2024 In: Home Ground


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  1. Stuart Rumsey

    Good morning Bernard, A very good article and you have described the situation very accurately. It would be very interesting to see on what grounds this latest application was withdrawn. I would certainly hope it was because the current ‘conservation officer’s comments were so terribly at odds with those of Jane Stephen, HBC’s senior conservation officer, made for the initial applications, that they would cause significant embarrassment to the council. To be honest, such an about-turn is astonishing. Firstly saying of great merit and possible future listing and then to claim ‘no objection’. This raises real cause for concern with standards in that department.
    Having been the Diocese’s Inspecting Architect for several years, at my last Quinquennial Inspection, in 2020, when the building was again vacant, I expressed concern that such a fine building was standing unused and urged that a use should be found for it. I would not have anticipated that the Diocese would put it on the market for possible demolition!
    Keep up the good work. Stuart Rumsey, architect.

    Comment by Stuart Rumsey — Saturday, May 18, 2024 @ 13:07

  2. Richard Heritage

    This is indeed another indictment on the abysmal record this council has for respect and conservation with buildings of historic merits. While this is not a listed building it is quite unique and deserves saving from money grabbing developers.
    This building is one of many this council and its predecessor failed to protect. Some five Burton houses have been lost. And even those listed such as the Grade II*n listed Pugin Chapel in St Leonards now on the “At Risk” list due to neglect. A classic example of how this council and the Conservation Officer have failed to step in any serve any enforcement notices on the owners. Confirms what Heather has said in her excellent comment

    Comment by Richard Heritage — Friday, May 17, 2024 @ 17:14

  3. Heather Grief

    The proposed houses are squashed together, unsightly, lacking in light to the side windows, with inadequate parking on a road full of parked cars, the bin sheds at the front would be an eyesore, I doubt if the houses will have much insulation or any other ‘green’ features, their living room patio doors face northwards and so will not receive any sun, and they lack disabled access from the pavement.

    But my main objection is to the demolition of this arts-and-crafts gem of a church, a style chosen many years after it was in vogue. J L Denman, distinguished Brighton architect, was clearly influenced by the tower at Holy Trinity Church, Bosham, where he did restoration work, and where King Harold II of Battle of Hastings fame is probably buried (most of him – the skeleton found in the 1950s was missing its head, right foot and left leg – this fits the Bayeux Tapestry’s death scene and the Song of the Battle of Hastings).

    How ironic that the applicant calls itself Victory 1066 Ltd. I hope history does not repeat itself.

    HBC should insist it is preserved, preferably as a community asset — its current use. Hollington deserves to have at least one building of architectural merit.

    Also, how can the Conservation Officers’ opinions veer between absolute objection to demolishing the church, to ‘no harm’ at all? Who decided that an application attracting objections from national and local heritage bodies, rejected by a thumping majority of the planning committee, could later be decided by one officer under ‘delegated powers’, without any democratic input?

    The church has fine brickwork, skilfully blended with flints and rafters re-used from bomb-damaged All Saints Church, Brighton. Its flint tower must be unique in having two flat sides and two curved ones. The UK’s foremost authority on historic architecture, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, included it in his Guide. This alone should save it from destruction.

    And who appointed a Conservation Officer so ignorant or derelict in his duty as to consider it unworthy of conservation? They should hang their heads in shame.

    Comment by Heather Grief — Thursday, May 16, 2024 @ 14:29

  4. Bernard McGinley

    Case HS/FA/24/00239 has been withdrawn, apparently ‘made invalid’.  A Council message inaccurately reads:
    ‘Planning Application details not available
    This application is no longer available for viewing. It may have been removed or restricted from public viewing.’

    A drainage report is awaited.  After that, the case will presumably be live again.

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Wednesday, May 15, 2024 @ 11:26

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