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Rural councillors resist 'too modern' cottage design

A Chichester planning committee has frustrated architect James Gorst by demanding changes to a sensitive modern scheme he has designed for a new cottage in an isolated rural setting.

The two-storey, three-bed, barn-like project for the house of steel, glass and untreated cedar at Kirdford was backed both by the local planners as an 'exciting change from pastiche' and informally by the Royal Fine Art Commission as making for a 'successful and interesting' building. But councillors turned their noses up at the building's proposed scale, design and materials and have deferred consideration for future negotiation. They want a striking chimney element taken inside the building and slates on the roof instead of stainless steel, but Gorst is holding his ground.

'It baffles me why these committee members should be so exercised about such a modest proposal that they will never be able to see without trespassing,' said Gorst this week. 'It beggars belief that we still have to fight these kind of battles. They really are exceeding their remit.'

Gorst designed the Whithurst Cottage building and detached double garage as a replacement for a smaller existing cottage. It was to be a 'contemporary barn' that would reduce the 'suburbanising' impact of a house in a remote Arcadian parkland setting invisible from any public highway. The scheme features a pale-grey concrete frame, cladding of untreated cedar and a stainless-steel roof with a ground floor extensively glazed to create a sense of living in the landscape. The planners - whom Gorst said had been helpful and supportive - recommended approval since the building lies outside the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; would not be detrimental to the area's character or historic features; and fitted in with national policy promoting local distinctiveness. The planning report noted: 'The conservation architect has supported this modern design solution and it is considered that it would be suited to this isolated, free-standing solution.'

And Francis Golding, secretary of the Royal Fine Art Commission, wrote to Gorst after viewing the model to say he thought it 'a serious and thoughtful piece of architecture, well adapted to its isolated rural setting.' He added that doing as the councillors had recommended would compromise the design and that an appeal to the secretary of state looked to be the best course of action.

Gorst has also enlisted the help of Alan Powers and past riba president Michael Manser, who knows the area well. He is refusing to alter the scheme and has written to the council warning that costs after an appeal would be awarded against the council. The planning committee next meets on 6 September.

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