The future of painter’s Bepton home is topic of hot debate

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THE artwork of Bepton painter Steven Sykes has been discussed at a planning enquiry, with one side arguing his work was not ‘of sufficient merit’ to use in Pallant House Gallery.

The enquiry was called after the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) refused permission for the demolition of an existing cottage, and the partial demolition of a barn.

The site at Hopkiln, in Bepton, was the former home of Mr Sykes, who died in 1999, but had turned his home and garden of 30 years into a work of art.

The plan is for it to be replaced by a four-bedroom house that would fill the space currently occupied by both the buildings.

Among the national park’s reasons for refusing the application was it believes the cottage and barn to be part of the heritage of the area, and the artistic significance of the site should be preserved.

However, Fred Aldsworth, a heritage consultant speaking at the enquiry on behalf of the applicant, said he had discussed the artwork with David Cook, an ‘eminent art historian’, and former director of Pallant House Gallery.

“He knew Steve Sykes, and was very familiar with his work,” said Mr Aldsworth.

“He’d been approached with a view to putting on an exhibition of Steven Syke’s work.

“He felt it wasn’t of sufficient merit to use.”

He added: “I’m not sure there’s much more I can comment on there.”

In response, Naomi Langford, representing the SDNPA, said: “The South Downs take a broad view of what they consider to be cultural heritage.

“I agree Mr Sykes didn’t produce any of his national works within that cottage.”

David Lander, representing the applicant, said: “The point is that they’ve been offered to Pallant House Gallery and rejected.

“His most famous work is in Coventry Cathedral and it’s not relevant to the site.

He added he didn’t understand how the application could possibly be refused on these grounds.

The historical heritage of the barn was also questioned, and 
its use prior to Mr Sykes owning the site.

“While initially it would appear that there’s a lot of it, there’s a lot missing and we don’t know how it functions,” said Mr Aldsworth.

He added there was not much known about how it worked.

However, Ms Langford countered by saying: “Perhaps we will never know how it was used.

“It adds weight to the argument that it’s a rare example that gives strength to its retention.

“Perhaps knowledge would be enhanced with its retention.

“It doesn’t make it less of a heritage asset because it’s in pieces.

“Would you say that about the Cowdray Ruins?”