Has one of Farnham’s iconic buildings been trashed?

Has Grade 2 Listed Brightwell House been sacrificed on the altar of incompetence and ineptitude of Waverley BC and the Farnham Residents Party?

What do you think?

Local Architectural Consultant and Landscape Architect Mark Westcott thinks the physical damage is extensive, and the building has, effectively, been trashed.

Brightwells House is  Grade 2 listed. It is a building that the former Waverley administration tried to demolish. The smallest building on the site, although it is being extended with a large two-storey extension to the north side ( see the main South elevation below). I am told it is being re-rendered and refurbished to the highest standards. We will see. It will be dwarfed by the buildings that surround it. I recall reading somewhere that it was seen as the centrepiece. In my experience, you don’t surround your most treasured article with vast over-dominant other things.

This picture, taken in December, reveals the truly shocking state of one of Farnham’s most treasured heritage buildings (photo Mark Westcott)

The Farnham Theatre Association fully supports Mark’s efforts to restore the house according to the Listed Building Conditions for this Grade 2 building, conditions imposed when the Conservative-led administration gave the £115m + m Waverley & Surrey County Council funded Brightwells Development the go-ahead.

Is it any wonder that SW Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt has dumped Farnham for a safer seat at the next election in Godalming & Ash? Goodbye, Farnham, hello, Godalming and Ash.

It is disgraceful that Waverley has allowed this to happen and that developers Crest Nicholson has taken advantage of the Western Planning Committee and the Council’s Planning Department’s weakness.

The Farnham Theatre Association fully supports Mark’s efforts to see that the house is restored to its former Regency glory according to the Listed Building Conditions for the Grade 2 house imposed by Waverley. 

Like Mark Westcott, the Waverley Web has tried on the council’s planning portal to find more publicly available information on the debacle that is Blightwells (which is how we refer to this unpopular development.) What did we find? 

A complete disarray of superseded and extant drawings and numerous applications; to chimneys, roof structure and construction, cutting through and disposal of original roof timbers, internal and external finishes through to doors and windows, extensive conflicting drawings, absence of structural engineers’ drawings, and detail drawings, any conservation officer approvals etc., everywhere he, and we looked and investigated, is an absolute mess. The physical damage is extensive. The building has, effectively, been trashed.

Mark said: “There is so much wrong that it’s extremely difficult to know where to start. In the absence of any express and written conservation officers’ approvals to any of the things that have happened, I cannot avoid the conclusion that there has been what is normally considered to be criminal damage to a Grade ll Listed by the contractor”.

“I believe the building can be rescued and reinstated, but it’ll require considerable care and expertise, skill, time and cost, not to mention the determined will to do so on the part of both the Local Authority partners and the Developer”.

“It seems to me that it’s of the utmost importance that it is dealt with as promptly as possible if we stand any chance of getting it put right in any reasonable time”.

Mr Westcott has written to the Chief Executive of Waverley & Guildford Councils calling for urgent action, saying…

As promised, I am attaching some site photographs showing all manner of damage, from ripped-out French windows and fanlights (which I’m told have been thrown away, despite being required by the Listed Building Consent to be refurbished), ditto sash windows (also thrown away, same LBC condition), circular saw chopped and sawn shutter box architraves, extensive damage to shutter boxes, vastly oversized chimney stacks built in blockwork rather than brickwork and not in accordance with any drawings etc.

Frankly, I was shocked by what I saw today and hope that an early meeting with the heads of the relevant services, the officers responsible, and the relevant Directors of Crest Nicholson may give us a chance of getting the project back on course”.

Mark Westcott is an Architectural Consultant and Landscape Architect DipLA(Leeds) DipArch(Mac) BArch(Glas)








11 thoughts on “Has one of Farnham’s iconic buildings been trashed?”

  1. What is the point of Grade Listing when this sort of criminal act can be allowed? I realise the developer couldn’t care less, but surely the council should.

    1. I think WBC will care Gary, if the developer does not restore Brightwell House once they have prepared it for fitting out by the new occupier. “It is an offence, liable to prosecution, to alter or demolish listed building in a way that affects its special character without first obtaining Listed Building Consent. The penalties on conviction are heavy” (as stated on WBC website) I would imagine the council’s Heritage Officer will be breathing down their neck at that point. To be fair, we’ve not reached that point yet – but there are plenty of Farnham Residents who will take issue when the time comes!

  2. Someone will have to pay for this damage to justify the demolition of a cutural asset. The Redgrave Theatre was demolished to enable the full restoration of Brightwell House by the reinstatement of its historic elements. Is Crest Nicholson up for the job to save its good name, or will it leave Waverley Borough Council to pick up the pieces?

  3. I have no wish to comment on the works to Brightwell House. I do not live in the Farnham any more. But I do not like to read wrong headed accusations, and ad hominem comments against my brother.
    I do not know who Mr John F Wright-Smith is. I cannot find him listed in any telephone directory or elsewhere. However he professes to know a great deal about local politics in Farnham, my brother Mark, and his motivation for being concerned about the state of Brightwell House. (Not Brightwells House, as it is called by Mr Wright-Smith in a comment above!)
    Is it possible that Mr Wright-Smith is not writing under his real name?
    Firstly though, it would have been polite of Mr Wright-Smith to spell our family name correctly.
    Secondly, it would also help if he had not ascribed a legitimate concern about the current state of a listed building as mere electioneering on Mark Westcott’s part. This is evidenced by Mr Wright-Smith stating he is only willing to apologise if Mark clearly commits to never standing again, as an independent candidate, in any local election. What kind of threat is this? This does appear to me to suggest that Mr Wright-Smith does not believe in some basic democratic principles.
    Thirdly, Mr Wright-Smith does accept that the “disgraceful treatment of the listed building” has taken place. Surely local councillors have some standing in this. The Western Planning Committee has, I note, a number of members of the Farnham Residents Group on it. Have they asked questions about the fate of this listed building? I see that some Farnham Resident Group Councillors on the local civil Parish Council are also WBC Councillors. Have any of them raised any concerns over the last 6 months about the works at Brightwell House? Have any officers at WBC reported concerns about Brightwell House to Members over the last 6 months?
    It seems reasonable to suggest that at least some responsibility for the “disgraceful treatment of the listed building”, to quote Mr Wright-Smtith, may lie with Waverley Council and the local Councillors.
    I look forward to Mr Wright-Smith’s apologies for, and the withdrawal of, the allegations he has made about my brother.

    1. It is interesting to see that Mr Andrew Wescott is defending his brother against comments from Mr Wright Smith which seem to have disappeared completely. Did the admin of this site take them personally perchance?

      1. What a great shame that the future of an iconic Farnham building and efforts by a local man to spotlight its disgraceful state has brought personal attacks on individuals. Surely the important thing here is the future of Brightwells House.

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