DISTRICT planners will be urged this week to throw out plans for a £2million restoration of John Fowles’ former Lyme Regis home.
Building preservation charity the Landmark Trust is proposing to return Belmont House in Pound Street to its 18th century form and let it out as holiday accommodation.
The plans involve demolishing parts of the east and west wings, which were added in later centuries, and converting the old stable block into an interpretation space about the world-famous author. The observatory tower, a prominent part of the Lyme Regis landscape, was also added later but would remain under the trust’s plans.
Landmark, which bought Belmont in 2007 from Mr Fowles’ widow Sarah, has submitted plans to West Dorset District Council.
Members of the council’s development control committee will consider the application at its meeting on Thursday, when planning officer Andrew Martin will be recommending that the plans are refused.
Mr Martin said in his report: “The proposed demolition of the rear, two storey, 19th century wing of Belmont House, and the consequent severance of the observatory tower from the main building, would have an adverse effect on the historic and architectural special features of the building, resulting in substantial harm to the heritage asset.”
Belmont is a maritime villa built in 1784 and was originally occupied by 18th-century businesswoman Eleanor Coade, whose artificial Coade stone decorates the front of the house.
Mr Fowles bought the house in 1968 and lived there until his death in 2005.
Landmark wants it to remain as a single house but open it up to the public for short-stay holiday accommodation.
The plans have won the support of Lyme Regis Town Council and the Georgian Group and Natural England has no objections.
The Ancient Monuments Society has no objection to some of the proposed demolition but questions removing the link to the observatory tower and replacing internal period features with reproductions of an earlier type.
But the trust’s plans have come under fire from the Victorian Society and English Heritage, who both object to the demolition of the rear 19th century wing.
This view is supported by the district council’s listed buildings officer and by Mrs Fowles, who previously said she ‘whole-heartedly concurs’ with the Victorian Society’s views.
Mr Martin said: “The applicants make a strong case, supported by the Georgian Group, for returning the building to a Georgian maritime villa – with the Victorian observatory retained as a freestanding structure.
“But English Heritage, the Victorian Society and our own listed buildings officer believe that the loss of the rear, two storey Victorian wing will permanently eradicate an important later phase of the building’s evolution, which they regard as poor conservation practice and contrary to national and local policy advice.”