Heritage - Who cares?

What are the odds on the Black Dog (or the “Oli B c” as it seems to be called currently [1]) being flattened and replaced with housing? Odds-on l would say. Despite it being in a Conservation Area. But then we all know that designation is both worthless and pointless.

The purpose of a Conservation Area is to “preserve or enhance the special character or appearance of the area”. The Old Post Office, which was a lovely 90 year old building, has been stripped (literally in the case of its floor and roof) and turned into a bland block of flats. The garden of Victoria House has been ‘grabbed’ and replaced with neo-Georgian housing clad in fake cobbles. They certainly haven’t “preserved” but have any of these changes “enhanced” the Conservation Area in which they sit? No.

At least the developer of The Mutton [2] managed to maintain some of the fabric of the historic building, on the outside at least.

Berri Court wanted to knock down 30 feet of a 200 year old flint wall just so they could install a new gate. Fortunately this was refused by the District Council (although part of the wall had already been demolished without Planning Permission being granted).

lt’s clear developers (and in this category I include owners who have no intention of staying in the area but are only intending to 'do up’ a place and sell it on for profit) only view Conservation Area status as an inconvenience. As the estate agency handling the current sale of the Olive Branch openly state:

The public house is not a listed building but is situated within a conservation area. We are of the opinion that the pub site offers development potential for a small housing scheme.


The Black Dog PH

Olive Branch gastropub

Of course,“small” is likely to be at least 8 homes (since some must be ‘affordable’ under current planning rules so a developer cannot just put in 4 detached houses). Don’t get me wrong, l’m not resistant to change, but let’s keep it in style with the area and not turn what, historically, was the centre of our village into a mish-mash of style and form. What is it with people who buy a house because it has ‘character’ and ‘period features’ and then promptly destroy those very features with out-of-place extensions and modernizations?

Arun District Council in their booklet, “A Conservation Area Design Guide for the Arun District”, advocate, “try to appreciate the spirit of the place before attempting to change it any way”. Wise words, but often overlooked when, even before they have moved in, new owners have already decided to knock down walls and re-shape the interior layout.

Of course buildings need to evolve and be adapted to the changing needs oftheir occupants; after all that is what gave them their character in the first place. But evolution not revolution should be the mantra. Contemporary materials are still available and can be just as efficient as their modern replacements. lt just takes a little thought and care.

‘Heritage’ is a word that is bandied about a lot. But what does it mean, and why is it important? ln the same way as your own heritage makes you who you are today, then so it does for the place we live, our village. The Oxford English Dictionary describes heritage as, “Valued objects and qualities such as historic buildings and cultural traditions that have been passed down from previous generations”. Wikipedia goes further and adds, “..inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations”. l like that definition since it accurately sums up what heritage is all about.

Heritage is not a gift to the current generation to abuse or destroy as we see fit; we are merely temporary caretakers and our legacy is preserving the heritage and passing it on to our children. If we destroy all our heritage then what will our children inherit? A bland uniform ghetto. Do you think they will thank us for that?


The Old Post Office c.1950

The enlarged Old Post Office 2013

Geoff Westcott
December 2013

(Originally published in Yapton News, January 2014)

[1] This is a reference to the signage on the side of the building which originally said "Olive Branch" but fell into disrepair as letters fell off.

[2] The Shoulder of Mutton pub was converted into houses in 2009.

Update 2017: Planning Permission was granted in 2015 to convert the Olive Branch into 6 flats and build a Gospel Hall on the site of the car park. This work was completed in 2017.

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