Calls have been made for conservation charities The National Trust and English Heritage to ensure that Overroads, the former home of G.K. Chesterton, remains out of developers’ clutches after plans to demolish the property and replace it with apartments were rejected.
However, Dr Dale Ahlquist, president of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, said that while the developer’s proposal had been rejected, this did not signal a definitive victory as further planning applications could still be submitted.
“This rejection won’t stop another developer from making a proposal,” Dr Ahlquist told The Catholic Universe. “This gives us a reprieve. We need to get the property protected as listed culturally significant site.”
He added that he was heartened by the worldwide support in favour of preserving the home of the famed Catholic author and theologian, and that he hoped “the momentum continues so that this treasure will be permanently protected.”
As reported in last week’s Catholic Universe, Octagon Developments Ltd had applied for permission to demolish Overroads, the home Chesterton and his wife Frances bought in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, in 1909, after their relocation from London.
Catholic peer Lord David Alton of Liverpool, who last week condemned the plans as an “act of unpardonable cultural vandalism”, welcomed the reprieve and urged conservation charities to ensure that the property, which is of both historical and national significance, remains intact.
Lord Alton, who previously suggested transforming Overroads into a museum celebrating Chesterton and passing his work on to future generations, told The Catholic Universe: “A reprieve is welcome but as Chesterton once said about the withdrawal of a bill by the Government of his day, and which would have led to the compulsory sterilisation of people with special needs, ‘these dazed dupes will gather again together, and attempt again to believe their dreams and disbelieve their eyes’.
“If people want to save his home from the developers they need to guard against the dazed dupes and come up with a long-term plan.
“Otherwise, a reprieve will only be a temporary stay of execution – and, in this case, of demolition.
“Chesterton’s legacy deserves to be cherished and celebrated in what was his home.
“The National Trust or English Heritage should step in and work with the Local Authority to make it happen.”
Overroads is not a listed building so could be developed at any time. The recently rejected application comes after the building’s current owners turned to property developers after they put it on the market last year with an asking price of £1.9 million and received no buyers. It follows a previous request, which was also rejected.