What do you think? Southwold ‘landmark’ could be destroyed to pave way for housing plan
CALLS were made this week to protect a 'landmark' Southwold building from demolition amid fears that an important piece of the town's history could be lost if a new housing plan is approved.
Plans have been submitted to Waveney District Council to demolish the former Casa Mia piano bar on Ferry Road – also known as The Dutch Barn – to create two three-bedroom houses and a new caf�.
But artist Emily Whalley, who lives next to the property, has called on English Heritage to give it listed status to safeguard its important links to the second world war, the fishing industry and a number of celebrities.
She claims the empty building still has the potential to become a thriving business again, or a family home.
Mrs Whalley, who has lived on Ferry Road for nearly 30 years, said: 'The building is in a conservation area and I think it is a historic building of some significance. It's use has been very important to the town.
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'It is like the water tower or the harbour – they are important reminders of the town's history.
'It is a landmark in Southwold and a part of the historic landscape – you can see it from as far away as The Common. So to put in a plan for demolition is quite tragic. As it stands, there is a facility there ready to be used by the Southwold community – a large family house with a business.
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'If it could become a restaurant again it would be wonderful, and we're in need of a function room because we've lost three recently. I've made contact with English Heritage on historical grounds and they are going to assess to see if it does have historical significance. If it was listed, it would not be demolished without serious consideration.'
She added: 'Southwold will fail if we keep building holiday homes.'
After hearing about the plan to demolish the Dutch Barn, Mrs Whalley delved into the archives of the Southwold Museum, the Alfred Corry Museum and the Lowestoft Record Office. She discovered that the property could date back as far as 1840 and was once used by workers making the distinctive dark red sails for wherry boats.
The building was later acquired by the British military and was throughout the second world war as an operational base for service personnel tasked with packing parachutes and making camouflage.
In the 1950s and 1960s, it became a popular eatery known as The Old Dutch Barn and high-profile figures including Princess Margaret and Monty Python Michael Palin would dine there during visits to Southwold.
In 2006, it became Casa Mia – an Italian-style caf� bar, owned by singer-songwriter Ed Darragh. It was run as a restaurant, cocktail bar, and as a late-night venue for live music, attracting a range of performers.
It also staged popular 'open mic' sessions on Thursday evenings.
Jessica De Grazia, the Waveney chairman of the Suffolk Preservation Society (SPS), said the design for the proposal was 'unfortunate' and said she backed the campaign waged by Mrs Whalley.
She said: 'The SPS is supportive of Emily's efforts. It is one of those buildings that unless you live in Southwold and understand its recent history you would not understand why it is so important.'
The plans submitted by architects Dunthorne Parker on behalf of its owner, Chris Buck, are said to be inspired by the 'simple, robust and workmanlike' appearance of a Southwold fishing hut.
If approved by Waveney's development control committee, the Dutch Barn would be pulled down to make way for two 'family properties' and a separate cafe for people using the beach.
Efforts were made to contact Dunthorne Parker, but a comment was not received in time for publication.
The final decision on the plans will be made by Waveney District Council.
? For more information about the plans, visit Waveney council's website at www.waveney.gov.uk
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