Plan to turn listed Old Rectory into flats could ‘end in disaster’

Our Sutton reporter, BELLE MONT, on how another heritage building in Carshalton is under threat

The Philistines who are in charge of Sutton Council have put at risk the preservation of another historic building in their care, with proposals potentially seeing the Old Rectory at Carshalton being flogged off to a private developer, a move that concerned locals say will “end in disaster”.

Sutton Council’s plans to chop the Old Rectory into five flats could ‘end in disaster’

The council had wanted to convert the 300-year-old, Grade II*-listed status building into five flats, a scheme which some claim would cause “substantial damage to the historic interior”.

The Old Rectory overlooks Carshalton Ponds, and is situated between another heritage building, The Lodge (see Inside Sutton passim), and the Honeywood Museum.

Thought to have been built between 1703 and 1705, during the reign of Queen Anne (a period represented in the Oscar-winning movie The Favourite), the Old Rectory has four rooms on each of the ground, first and attic floors, and in its heyday provided very comfortable accommodation for the vicars of All Saints church just the other side of the ponds.

Most recently, it was used as offices for the local ecology centre, until that operation was scaled down because of council spending cuts. It remains, however, according to those in the know, a building “of huge historic interest in the Carshalton Village Conservation Area”.

It is such an important building, in fact, that there’s a Carshalton Old Rectory Association formed in its name, and in the past six months there’s even a book, A Respectable Parsonage House, by Sue Horne, been published about it.

Not that any of that appears to bother the officials at Sutton Council, who seem very keen to get the place off their hands and converted into money-spinning flats with some retail space on the ground floor.

Only trouble is, the council’s initial plan, to unload the building on a long lease at a low, or even zero, rent to Sutton Living, their wholly owned housing company, has hit the buffers. Now CORA and other concerned residents fear that the council will simply flog off the Old Rectory to the highest commercial bidder, whatever the consequences for the building’s heritage status.

The Sutton Living proposals came before the council’s strategy and resources committee earlier this month. With the price tag for sensitively redeveloping the building set at a cool £1million, “increased costs” were cited in making the scheme “almost unviable”.

According to CORA, “Sutton Living Ltd will not proceed without being granted a long lease at a reduced (or zero) cost and without removing the commercial unit to create an extra flat. If, even on this basis, the project turns out to unviable, the report recommended that the council’s officers be authorised to lease the building to a private developer which would create the flats and sell them on long leases. This would give the leaseholders the right to buy out the freehold, so the council would probably lose all control of the building.”

CORA say that they are very concerned. “We think that a sale to a private developer is likely to end in disaster.”

Councillors on the committee considered representations about the Old Rectory from CORA and others, and said that if Sutton Living withdraw from the development scheme, then the matter will come back to the committee and not be delegated to council officials.

CORA say that worries about the building’s future will continue, even if the building manages to remain in public control. “The Old Rectory is still threatened with conversion into five flats,” they state. “CORA thinks that it will be very difficult to do this without substantial damage to the historic interior and that it would be better to keep the building as a single dwelling. This does however, raise legal difficulties, around the tenant’s right to extend, buy the freehold or extend the lease.”

CORA’s campaigning to get the building Listed status does mean that any scheme agreed by Sutton Council will, at least, receive close scrutiny by Historic England.


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1 Response to Plan to turn listed Old Rectory into flats could ‘end in disaster’

  1. Lewis White says:

    Carshalton has so many architectural gems. This building, the nearby St Philomena’s, the Water Tower and baths, All Saints Church, Honeywood etc etc. The list is huge.

    Are there no arts uses –small concerts etc–that could be located here ? Or is nearby Honeywood enough? Parking is minimal in this area, so that can be a big problem for events. Also, is it wheelchair accessible for public use?

    The key thing is survival of this wonderful building intact and properly maintained into the future.
    Public use is fine if a real use for a building can be found, and the building has enough funding to ensure it does not decay. But there are far too many buildings of this kind, owned by councils, that are “semi-mothballed” with unsuitable uses in a grand house.

    Would English Heritage have issues with cutting up such an interior into flats?.

    I would rather see this building sold off to the highest bidder, sensitively adapted, and looked after well, as luxury flats, than sold off for peanuts to an organisation that fails to look after it.

    A difficult question.

    Not far away, the Fox and Hounds pub–a characterful, rambling, landmark building–is languishing. Finding good new uses for old buildings is sometimes far easier said than done.

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