After 12 months of consultation with Lewes District Council’s (LDC) Planning and Design and Conservation departments, Ross & Co have happily finally obtained planning approval and Listed Building consent on behalf of our client for the redevelopment of this lovely building on Cliffe High Street in Lewes.
The building and a little history
The property is Grade II listed and lies within the Lewes Conservation Area. The front part of the building is Georgian and was built as commercial space to the ground floor and basement, with 2 storeys of residential accommodation and a capacious attic for the shop keeper above the shop.
The rear tile hung section, which houses the mezzanine floor and rear storage area, is thought to be a Victorian addition. This part of the building was used as a showroom for the Morris Foundry, as part of the Phoenix Ironworks and the sizable skylights were designed to flood the mezzanine with natural light.
The imposing high street façade is typical of the Georgian style in central Lewes; brick faced with stuccoed rusticated quoins, central Corinthian pilasters and deep window surrounds, sash windows to the upper floors and a deep moulded parapet.
This part of Cliffe High Street (pictured below) was widened in 1829 requiring the re-fronting of the existing houses from 41-46, resulting in the properties displaying common details in parapets and pilasters.
The existing double shop front to the ground floor is in cast iron and believed to be late 19th century, with arched window frames, decorated spandrels and an inset front door.
Historic photographic records (below) show the shop occupied by a Lipton grocery store which, based on the historic growth of the Lipton empire, would have been between 1875 and 1888.
Planning and Development
The building has been in our client’s possession for decades and they were keen to explore their options with regards to both preserving their building and enhancing it as a long-term asset.
With that in mind we looked to expand the residential accommodation to improve asset value whilst retaining the commercial shop space to maintain the building’s links with its past and its presence as part of the historic fabric of Lewes’ shopping area.
After lengthy negotiations with LDC’s Senior Design and Conservation officer we were able to agree a scheme that included the retention of the shop floor and basement, together with part of the rear mezzanine floor as a single commercial unit, together with three residential units.
The retention of some of the mezzanine floor as part of the commercial unit allows all of the original interior detail to show, including the mezzanine staircase and light-well base. This is in association with the Victorian rear extension which will remain, preserving the visual connections to the historic development of the building.
To the rear will be an unusual one-bedroom house over two stories, using the rear part of the mezzanine and what was shop storage, connected by the original internal cast iron spiral staircase. The rear yard will be accessed from the first floor living space via the original showroom door and a new external spiral staircase.
The existing residential accommodation over the upper floors is subdivided providing two separate flats, with the second floor flat making use of the attic space to provide a master suite. The layouts of the upper floors remain largely unchanged to preserve room sizes and minimise the removal of historic fabric.
Refurb & repair
The separation of the commercial space from the residential together with the external repairs are now well underway. The next big undertaking, now that we have scaffold up after Lewes’s infamous bonfire night celebrations, will be to properly examine the huge skylights over the mezzanine and see whether we can repair or will need to rebuild.
As is always the case with these types of buildings there are challenges to overcome as the work progresses, and compromises to be agreed between Design and Conservation and Building Control.
Happily, our Client understands the foibles of this grand old dame of a building and over the years I have learnt to bend with the wind grasshopper.
With the building water tight and tucked in for winter the residential development will soon be under way and we can look forward to a new round of challenges as we work our way up through the building.
Suffice it to say it is always a pleasure and privilege to work on buildings of this quality. I will endeavour to remain bendy and reed like in 2018 and look forward to bringing you updates and photos as the development progresses.
This article was written by Cath Prenton, Director, Planning and development.