Listing bid fails for Exmouth's iconic buildings

PUBLISHED: 14:18 19 June 2009 | UPDATED: 11:13 10 June 2010

TWO of Exmouth s iconic Victorian buildings have failed to get protection from developers. Exmouth Library, formerly the Exeter Road School built in 1877, and The Imperial Hotel on The Esplanade, built in 1869, both had applications for listing rejected

TWO of Exmouth's 'iconic' Victorian buildings have failed to get protection from developers.

Exmouth Library, formerly the Exeter Road School built in 1877, and The Imperial Hotel on The Esplanade, built in 1869, both had applications for listing rejected by English Heritage.

Buildings of historical or architectural importance are often listed, restricting any changes that can be made by developers.

But the decisions were made despite a straw poll by town planners Steve Gazzard and Ian Stewart last year in which residents said the two buildings, along with The Old Lifeboat station, The Savoy Building and The Town Hall, should be protected.

Victoria Matthewson, of English Heritage, said the library had "...undergone considerable later alteration which has changed its external appearance.

"Internally, the building has seen considerable change and has lost much of its character."

She added that, because it was converted into a library, it was no longer of national special interest to merit listing.

A subsequent report added that the architect responsible, H Lovegrove, was 'not thought to be nationally recognised'. "There are no other listed buildings attributed to him," said the report.

Heather Gordon, of English Heritage, said of the decision not to list The Imperial Hotel: "Only the left side of the original hotel survives... any orchestral significance it had has been hugely compromised by the late 20th Century rebuilding.

"Despite being attributed to notable Victorian architects, so little of the original remains."

Town planner Councillor Steve Gazzard said he was 'extremely disappointed'. "We are talking about the town's heritage. We wanted to protect two of Exmouth's iconic buildings," he said.

"My mother and grandparents went to school there. People asked me if anything could be done to protect the buildings as we seem to be losing more of the town's old buildings all the time. One of the arguments why they were not going to list the library was that the architect who built it wasn't famous enough.

"As an argument, that is utter rubbish and doesn't make any sense. The library has got many of the original features and has a lovely spire and tower."

He said he wanted the Imperial Hotel listed following rumours it was to be refurbished. "If there are no structural changes and the rooms are refurbished, it won't come before the planning committee and we won't get a say, and that worries me," he said.

"It seems you can get the concrete Civic Centre in Plymouth listed in just a few days, but they won't list Victorian buildings in Exmouth."

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