Hastings council accused of ‘ruining’ Grade II listed building

The council has been accused of ‘ruining’ a listed building.

Objectors have voiced their anger after Hastings Borough Council placed railings and grilles on the Roman Bath in Summerfields Wood.

The structure is a neo-classical building from the Victorian period.

Council planners have now applied for retrospective planning permission for the installation of galvanised protection barriers to the archway, side steps and lower bath area.

The Roman Bath structure in Summerfields Wood SUS-210608-122719001

The authority said it placed the barriers there to ‘address safety concerns’.

Objectors have voiced their anger on the borough council’s planning portal in response to the application.

Heather Grief, who set up a petition in protest, said: “This application is very retrospective, as the first set of railings appeared ‘out of the blue’ before June 2016, over five years ago, and the second set at the start of lockdown.

“Any work to a Grade II listed building should be preceded by an application for Listed Buildings Consent, and then by a planning application, and a higher standard is expected for any such work. So far as I know, there has not been an application for Listed Buildings Consent, and therefore this application is not valid.

The Roman Bath structure in Summerfields Wood SUS-210608-122730001

“I particularly object to the more recent additional ‘barriers’, which again appeared without any application in advance, as they cannot possibly be excused on grounds of emergency health and safety, or they would have been installed in 2016.

“These new barriers ruin the look of the structure, and make it completely unphotogenic, and turn an attraction into an eyesore, trapping litter and natural debris underneath and behind them.”

Bob Hart said: “The Roman Bath at the Bohemia Estate Summerfields Wood has been owned by Hastings Borough Council (HBC) for around 50 years and it was given Grade ll listing status in 1999. It has received little maintenance after minor repairs in the early 1990s and shows signs of neglect and deterioration.

“In 2016 HBC erected three metal fences at the top of the steps above the structure without seeking advice or applying for permission. In March 2020 another metal fence was erected in the arch and a grid was installed above the water because of safety concerns for the public who visit the Bohemia Estate at Summerfields Wood.

“It’s surprising that the applicant HBC in the Heritage Statement they prepared for the application that they finally submitted has chosen not to seek any advice from heritage organisations.

“The current proposal installed in the name of public safety is particularly ugly and destroys the appearance of a listed structure. The policy of HBC failing to maintain their asset over long periods has not helped to preserve the Bohemia Roman Bath and the current retrospective application does not enhance the appearance or setting in any way. I object to the proposal and would expect that consultation with organisations involved with heritage should be sought so that it is not just HBC deciding on its own activities.”

In a letter to the council, Sussex Gardens Trust (SGT) said: “SGT finds the utilitarian, brightly coloured galvanised gates and grid entirely unsympathetic to the sandstone ‘Roman’ bath-house and its setting. It is hard to imagine an uglier solution. For this reason, SGT objects to the application being approved.”

A council spokesman said: “Hastings Borough Council conducted works to a listed building to address safety concerns at the Roman Bath in Summerfields Wood.

“An application for listed building consent to regularise those works has been submitted and, the council’s conservation officer is now assessing the case, and liaising with other service areas and external agencies to find a solution that will meet safety requirements and ensure the heritage asset is preserved.

“The council has received 21 letters and one petition objecting to the works carried out. The case can be viewed on the planning pages using the planning search tool at www.hastings.gov.uk.

“Once discussions are completed a recommendation will be made to the planning committee.”