‘Ludicrously eccentric’ neighbourhood in Sussex added to council’s list of Conservation Areas

A neighbourhood once described as ‘ludicrously eccentric’ has been added to Horsham District Council’s list of Conservation Areas.
West Chiltington Lanes Conservation Area. Image: Horsham District CouncilWest Chiltington Lanes Conservation Area. Image: Horsham District Council
West Chiltington Lanes Conservation Area. Image: Horsham District Council

West Chiltington Lanes, which encompasses a number of buildings collectively known as Wells Cottages, is the 39th such protected area in the district.

A Conservation Area is defined as an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character and appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.

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Being classified as such gives the area some protection when it comes to planning and development.

The decision to make the lanes a Conservation Area was taken during a meeting of the cabinet on Thursday (January 25).

Ruth Fletcher (Lib Dem, Denne) said: “We’re a district which is under a lot of development pressure and, alongside the good new development that we want to be introducing, it’s really important that we do pay particular attention to preserving and enhancing existing developments that have a special character.”

West Chiltington Lanes certainly has character.

The Wells Cottages – replicas of 17th-century thatched cottages – were built by Reginald Fairfax Wells (1877-1951) in the 1920s.

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By the time he was finished, almost 200 of the homes were dotted around Sussex and Kent.

A public consultation was held early last year, seeking opinions about the proposed new Conservation Area, which covers Spinney Lane, Sunset Lane, Heather Lane, Westward Lane, Monkmead Lane, Common Hill, Roundabout Lane, Ling Common Place, Grove Lane, Bower Lane, Silver Glade, Birch Tree Lane, Fir Tree Lane and Threals Lane.

The consultation attracted 51 comments from 44 respondents, including the parish council, land-owners and residents

Not everyone was happy with the idea.

Some felt that the cottages had changed so much over time – Wells’ original idea was that they would never have electricity or running water – that their historic character had been diminished.

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Others felt owners were in the best position to understand and protect their buildings and that an added level of planning control would undermine that position.

Philip Circus (Con, West Chiltington, Thakeham & Ashington) lives in the new Conservation Area.

He said: “There will be people who will be unhappy – I know that because some of them have given me an ear-bashing.

“But they tend to be people with very large gardens who see the opportunity for perhaps in-fills, so they have a rather direct pecuniary interest in the comments they’ve made.”