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Tecton ventures to Haywards Heath

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Justine Sambrook

Modernism took on a country town planning department and won in Cuckfield’s notorious dispute

Haywards Heath, 1936

This group of eight modest houses in Haywards Heath, completed in 1936, was a rare foray into speculative housing design for Berthold Lubetkin and his Tecton colleagues. The client, a developer, challenged the architects to create a pilot scheme of modern houses marketable to the ordinary person, with a view to extending the estate to eventually include 60 or more houses.

Cuckfield Council initially refused permission to build, stating that ‘the elevations and general character of the designs were unsuitable for the District’. The case would become one of the most notorious planning disputes of the 1930s, with the council accused of favouring the ‘pseudo antique villas of the speculative builder’ over more cutting-edge design. After a heated inquiry, permission was eventually granted and the houses went on sale advertised as ‘The ideal home in a woodland setting’.

The design was unusual for Tecton, featuring rather bland brick facades in reference to the local vernacular. The original consistency of the scheme has since been destroyed as one house has been rendered in white and another fitted with a pitched roof.