Landscape-led project for new housing in South Downs National Park gets the green light

18th September, 2020

A dilapidated, Edwardian country mansion and former care home in Meon Valley is set for a new lease of life after planners backed proposals for a change of use.

Westbury House, between East Meon and West Meon in South Downs National Park, has stood empty since 2016 when the 70-bedroom facility for the elderly closed.

Pro Vision, on behalf of the owner, secured planning permission from South Downs National Park Authority to convert the four-storey building into 12 high-quality new homes, of which half will be affordable and available for shared ownership.

The housing mix includes a high proportion of smaller properties (five two-bedroom, three three-bedroom) to meet local need, plus one four-bedroom and three five-bedroom.

The planning committee voted earlier this month (September 10) to approve plans for Westbury House and associated land, including parking, landscaping and repairs to heritage assets, subject to a Section 106 Agreement.

The landscape-led scheme includes a phased programme of works to conserve and enhance the ruins of a medieval chapel (a Scheduled Monument on the “At Risk” Register), a walled garden and two listed ice houses in the grounds.

The parkland estate is within designated countryside restrictive to new housing. An exception to this is where proposals conserve and enhance heritage assets.

Architect Scot Masker, a director of Pro Vision, said: “This is the last realistic opportunity to save Westbury House. The proposals have multiple benefits: providing 12 new homes, restoring the historic parkland, a new public footpath for visitors to the site, landscape and ecological improvements.”

Westbury House, originally a Georgian stately home, was largely rebuilt in 1904 following a fire. The large, vacant property is not listed but is considered a non-designated heritage asset by the local planning authority.

Over the last four years, its condition has drastically deteriorated after theft of lead roofing, water damage and vandalism.

The plan is to vertically subdivide the main, original part of the house into new dwellings to maintain its historic layout and retain the high-quality joinery and decorative plasterwork in the ornate, principal reception rooms.

Charles Bridgeman, an 18th century English garden designer who helped pioneer the naturalistic landscape style, originally designed the parkland which includes the oldest example of a ha-ha (a deep, dry ditch) in Hampshire.  The proposals include reintroducing elements of the Bridgeman design.

Most of the parkland south of the house is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).

Pro Vision provided architecture, planning and ecology services. Permission followed pre-application discussions with careful consideration of the design and impact.