Hove novelist Polly Samson’s controversial plans to knock down Medina House and rebuild it have been recommended for approval by planners ahead of a committee meeting next Wednesday.
Ms Samson, the wife of Pink Floyd star Dave Gilmour, bought the crumbling former bath house in November 2015, after previous owner Sirus Taghan finally gave up attempting to get permission to knock it down after 14 years.
However by this time the building, which was the target of an arson attack in 2014, was beyond repair, and the couple’s plans to renovate it had to be abandoned in favour of rebuilding an “echo” of the striking 1894 house.
Planning permission for a single dwelling house was sought in October last year, and the application is now to be considered by Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee next Wednesday.
The plans have drawn 41 objections from members of the public for a variety of reasons including the new building being too tall, loss of light, noise disturbance and loss of an asset to the local community.
However, most objectors seem to have accepted the developer’s assessment that the building is beyond repair, and another 23 people have written to support the plans, many saying the new building is a sympathetic attempt to echo the existing structure.
The Hove Civic Society also supports the scheme, saying: “The site has had a long and sorry history of decline and neglect, and previous attempts to redevelop have not found favour. In different circumstances, a site that has become so derelict might be a good candidate for comprehensive redevelopment to provide new housing units. But given the background to this site, as the last trace of the old public baths complex, there has been long-running local interest in finding an imaginative solution.
“The design for the new house has elegance and merit. It would reestablish something of quality on the site which evokes the form of the old bathhouse (whose structure can no longer feasibly be salvaged). Additionally – and this is an important benefit – the scheme is able to preserve the remaining fabric of the pool area (an outcome that otherwise has seemed very unlikely).”
Ward councillor Andrew Wealls has requested that members of the committee visit the site to see for themselves the possible impact on light to houses behind the site.
One objection from the city council’s conservation officer is that the white brick chosen does not match the old Medina House’s red bricks or the surrounding houses’ buff bricks, and so it’s recommended that alternative bricks be considered by the developer. A condition to retain and restore what remains of the original building’s tiles is also proposed.
Planning officers have recommended that a requirement for £4,000 towards off-site footway improvements at the junction of Medina Terrace and Kings Esplanade be attached to any granting of permission.
Their report says: “Medina House, an architecturally-unusual three storey building, with gable end, dates from 1894 and originally housed a laundry and women’s slipper baths. It was part of the wider Medina Baths complex which also included a swimming pool and slipper baths for men (on the western corner of Sussex Road) and separate saltwater swimming pool and slipper baths for women.
“The building housing the women’s pool was demolished in 2000, leaving a cleared area within the site to the eastern side of Medina House. Around the periphery of the cleared site remain remnants of the demolished building, most notably the now exposed interior of its northern perimeter wall, revealing the original ceramic tiles in a bold pseudoArabic style. These are in varying stages of degradation resulting from their exposure to the elements.
“This building illustrates part of the historic development of the city as a spa town and it is the only surviving feature of Hove’s original historic bath complex on the seafront.
“The existing building is a positive contribution to this section of the seafront and Conservation Area. The significance of the building is made all the more important by the loss of the structures of the associated site (the men’s baths) to the west.”
The new building would be a storey higher than the existing Medina House, and include five bedrooms, a gym, dressing room and library.
A sunken covered garden would sit to the north of the site, and a courtyard garden covered by a high glass canopy is also included in the design.
From 2000 to 2014, previous owner Sirus Taghan made six applications to demolish the building, some of which proposed replacing it with a variety of multi storey developments were refused by the city council, and two also dismissed on appeal. Another seven applications were withdrawn by the applicant.