The Site and Outline Design - The site is a headland on the south east corner of Burgh Island 50m to the east of the Burgh Island Hotel, a listed building celebrated for its landmark position and Agatha Christie associations. The site is visible from the broad sands that emerge at low tide between the tidal island and mainland Devon and from the mainland coast including from Bigbury-on-Sea. The proposal was for a single storey hotel suite - a building resting on the rocks in the form of an inhabited bridge.
The Review Process - The client and his design team soon encountered opposition because of the impact on the important coastal landscape. They doubted they could achieve planning permission without expert support and therefore asked the South West Design Review Panel - that they considered to be highly respected and objective - to review the scheme and the grounds for objection. The review by a multi-disciplinary panel of four was preceded by a site visit. The Local Authority took part.
The controversy - The South Devon AONB Unit raised a strong objection, saying the proposal: ‘jars badly, particularly when read in conjunction with the hotel and other current buildings, adding a contrived structure perched on top of actively weathering rock structures in a manner that does not respect the listed hotel building nor the island’s landscape and seascape character.’ Officers from South Hams District Council then recommended the application be refused: ‘Whilst a finely balanced judgment, it is considered that the adverse impact of the proposal on the character and appearance of the AONB and Heritage Coast weighs greater than the potential to achieve innovative, outstanding architecture that would also benefit the economy and help to secure the future of an iconic listed building.’ The elected members of the Development Management Committee, however, overturned the recommendation - by four votes to three (with three abstentions). The written guidance from the design review was reported to them. Full permission was granted (with a number of conditions, all of which the applicants accepted). Design review helped a controversial scheme win consent.
‘We knew that this sensitive location was a challenge to us as designers and to the custodians of the coastal landscape. But objectors to the development in principle were outweighed in the end by supporters, especially the Panel, who saw a commendable design synthesis of architecture and context, actually contributing to its island setting.’ Mike Westley - Director - Westley Design Ltd Project Landscape Architects