Unexpected challenges

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog, and I’m sorry to those of you that enjoy reading about our adventures at Court Lodge. One thing we’ve been working away on in the background for the past couple of years is our planning application to the council asking for permission to use Court Lodge as a venue for functions, weddings, business meetings, and so on. We think it would be ideal as a venue in so many ways, and we know lots of other people do too, as we’ve already had lots of enquiries. But we can’t do anything until we get permission to operate commercially.

The main reason for seeking this permission is so that we can raise sufficient funds to carry out the much-needed repairs to Court Lodge and to the garden. Court Lodge doesn’t generate enough money as an accommodation rental business to carry out repairs; it makes just enough to cover its on-going running costs. So we need to find an additional source of income to enable us to repair the building and prevent it from deteriorating further.

Unfortunately, there has been some quite intense opposition to our plans and we’ve had to confront the very real possibility that we might not get the permission that we need.

What will we do if we are unsuccessful? It has been a very sobering experience to explore what our options would be. My family have lived here for nearly 300 years, but if we are not permitted to generate the revenue necessary to repair and restore the building, we will have no alternative but to sell up, thereby ending my family’s connection with Court Lodge. We certainly wouldn’t choose to burden our children with a Grade II listed historic house that they could not afford to restore.

And if we are no longer managing Court Lodge, we would need alternative employment. So it was with that thought that last year I began applying for jobs lecturing in philosophy, which is what I used to do in New Zealand before we moved back here to take over the reins of Court Lodge. I was fortunate, and thrilled, to be offered a position at the London School of Economics, and I started teaching there in September 2015. It has been great to get back into philosophy, and I’ve really enjoyed the teaching and interaction with students. The commuting, not so much!

While I’ve been commuting up to London, Ian has been managing things at Court Lodge, and we have been joined by the wonderful George who has been doing anything and everything that needs to be done. She started by giving herself the job description “Court Lodge Minion”, which soon became “Court Lodge Mini-Ian”! We call her the Court Lodge Marvel!

And then, just before Christmas 2015, life threw us another curve-ball, as I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatment I have had from the NHS has been outstanding, and I am so grateful to all the staff. I have already had surgery, and have recovered well from that. I’m now awaiting further test results to see whether or not I will be having chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy.

Meanwhile we have been waiting and waiting for news about the planning permission. We’ve now heard that we will have a decision by the end of March, so at least then we will have some certainty, and know whether or not we have a future at Court Lodge.

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22 thoughts on “Unexpected challenges

  1. Sarah Ward

    We’re all behind you both, dear Heather, so never fear you’re doing it alone. Although we might not physically be able to do much to help, please know that we all love and support you. Good luck with everything, and keep us posted. xx

    Reply
  2. Tim Dare

    Dear Heather, Very best wishes for all of that, especially the health stuff. We’ll be thinking of you. (And hoping we can find a reason to visit Court Lodge, which looks wonderful) Tim and Justine

    Reply
    1. heatherdyke Post author

      Hi Tim and Justine, Thanks so much for your message and support. We’d love you to come and visit Court Lodge – we have some very nice holiday accommodation for you to stay in! We are hoping to plan a New Zealand trip before too long, health issues permitting. All the best, Heather

      Reply
  3. Bonita

    Heather. I have just read your blog and all the stress you have been under. My heart goes out to you. Please let me know if I can do anything for you.

    Reply
  4. Emma

    Dear Heather and Ian, firstly, Heather, I am so sorry to hear of your diagnosis, glad to hear that the op went well and goodness me, how many challenges can one family take? I thought our life was ridiculous….! Fingers crossed you don’t have to have chemo.

    As you know, we too have struggled for many years to gain planning permission to make our very expensive to maintain site, a viable site. It would appear that common sense is lacking in how we tackle our countries heritage sites. It is very easy to sit in an armchair objecting to anything changing, but life does change, times move on, in our case, we can’t use child labour, lead paint or find any decent quality softwood as they could in Victorian times but we have a rock solid plan to ensure the survival of our THIRTEEN Victorian glasshouses…..the third largest collection in the country….yet, the plan is deemed to be deeply harmful. The reality is, our glasshouses were taken off the buildings at risk register in 2005 and in 2015, they were put straight back on it.

    In the case of Court Lodge, I fear that if you are not allowed to run the estate in the way you want to, to regenerate it and bring it back to life, ensure it’s survival as well as hosting lovely events such as your family days a few years back, then who will buy it? Somebody who couldn’t possibly have the passion that you do for your family home, someone with enough money to plough into the house but also plough all over the council….money talks and what on earth will happen to Court Lodge then? If the people who are objecting are worried about you…they should be even more worried about someone else taking over!! A council representative once said to me, that they like people with no money at the council as they have to get permission, it’s those with money who just go ahead and do what they want regardless of permission.

    The last time I saw you, we spoke about the objections you had been receiving and I could see how upset you were. I know how hard you have tried to be reasonable and open to discussion and all of this stress is not good for you at all. I really hope that the council see sense and grant you permission to hold events at Court Lodge. If there is anything at all that Monty and I can do to support you, just say, we’re there. In the meantime, think like Tim Smit of the Eden Project and Lost Gardens of Heligan does, he’s a great believer in the Tinkerbell theory, that being, if you say something will happen enough times, IT WILL HAPPEN!!! Good luck, chin up, onwards you go. Emma, The Walled Nursery, Hawkhurst. xx

    Reply
    1. heatherdyke Post author

      Thanks Emma, it’s so good to know you are there and know what we’re going through! We will keep you posted about our progress in all respects. Many, many thanks, Heather

      Reply
  5. Victoria Hancock

    Dear Heather, you may remember I came to visit you a couple of summers back (Victoria Hancock from the then Marston & Langinger) organised by Many Clark – to do some designs for your visitor centre and the new lantern in the Atrium. Things seem tough – is there anything I can do to help? Do let me know by email or phone if I can. Victoria.

    Reply
    1. heatherdyke Post author

      Hi Victoria, Thank you so much for your kind comment. We are STILL waiting to hear about planning! If there is anything we think you could help us with we will be in touch. It’s lovely to know that we have your support. Heather.

      Reply
  6. Sharon Page

    Dear Heather

    Hi you don’t know me but I have been reading your story about your amazing property and what you are trying to do. I truly hope that you get planning permission so you can generate additional funds to restore your amazing family home. I am a New Zealand lady that came to England many years ago and my English husband and I 8 years ago took over managing and running a Grade I listed Country House in Kent. The Trust that owned the property needed money urgently to like yourselves further restore the building and also further funds for there estate. Luckily they had no problems staging weddings and events and I can happily say that the money that we have generated has restored and secured the business so they now do not have to worry. I may call you to see how things have progressed. Ion a personal note have three generations of breast cancer in my family so I can only imagine the heartache felt when you were diagnosed with the disease in December. I do hope that you have had good news since then. I am intrigued to know where you lived in New Zealand I am originally from Wellington. Good luck with everything. Sharon

    Reply
    1. heatherdyke Post author

      Hi Sharon, thank you so much for this comment. We lived in Dunedin for 15 years, a city that I knew nothing about when we moved there, but that soon stole my heart. Both our children were born there, and we were very happy. We also had a holiday home (a crib!) in Roxburgh, in Central Otago, which was idyllic. It was very basic, with an outside loo, but the garden was surrounded by an apricot orchard, the next door neighbours had a cherry orchard, there was a forest over the road for the children to play in, and the Clutha for fishing in. Happy times! The breast cancer has certainly been a blow, and I’m ready to write off 2015-16 as a particularly low point in my life. But I am doing well. I recovered well from surgery in early Feb, and am now just over half way through the radiotherapy. That is so interesting that you have been managing a country house in Kent. I’d love to hear more, and get some tips! Please do get in touch. Thank you again, Heather

      Reply
      1. Sharon Page

        Dear Heather

        It was lovely to read your reply and to hear about your life in Dunedin. I miss New Zealand still even after 27 years but my English husband loves living here in Europe. I would love to chat further about your possible change to running weddings and events and will if that is okay with you call you during the week. Is there a good time to call as I know you were working but I do not know if you still are. Please do let me know and I will call you and chat further about what we have done with the Country House that we managed for 8 years. Look forward to chatting to you and to possibly meeting you both sometime to reminisce about New Zealand and to see your family home. I love the history of your home.
        Regards
        Sharon

      2. heatherdyke Post author

        That would be great, thank you Sharon. The best time to get me this week is in the mornings. I look forward to hearing from you. All the best, Heather

      3. Sharon Page

        Dear Heather
        Thank you for your reply and I will try calling you either tomorrow morning around 10am or on Wednesday morning.
        Regards
        Sharon

      4. heatherdyke Post author

        That’s wonderful, thank you Sharon. I am around this morning, and Wednesday morning too. I look forward to speaking to you, Heather

      5. Sharon Page

        Dear Heather

        Hi I called this morning but unfortunately got your answerphone. I left a message with my mobile and office number. I will try again but I am busy tomorrow but could call around 9am if that is not too early. Otherwise I can chat on Friday morning as I am in my office then. You are more than welcome to call me on my mobile.
        Regards
        Sharon

  7. Josephine Craske

    Dear Heather, we stayed in your delightful accommodation last July and enjoyed it so much. So sorry to hear about your health issues. We love your part of the world and so hope to come back and see how things are progressing at Court Lodge. During our stay we visited Emma and Monty’s nursery and bought two panes of glass!! Every little helps as the saying goes. Our best wishes to you and your family.

    Reply
    1. heatherdyke Post author

      Thank you so much for your kind thoughts, it is really wonderful to know that people enjoy our holiday accommodation. That has been one of the most worthwhile things we have done since we got here. We’d love to see you back again some time soon!

      Reply
  8. Pingback: Update on the planning permission situation | Court Lodge Estate

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