DOZENS of people, including top interior designers, have objected to retrospective plans to install gates around a famous National Trust hunting lodge in Odiham and turn it into a “high security compound”.

An application has been submitted to Hart District Council by new tenant Francis Sultana asking for permission to replace fencing, lighting and security cameras at the grade II listed King Henry’s Hunting Lodge, in Bagwell Lane, Odiham.

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The application states that the plans will “protect the local heritage while enabling change. The proposal preserves the grade II listed building in balance with its functionality to benefit the house and its occupiers”.

However, Mr Sultana has been criticised by top interior designers including Jasper Conran, for making changes to the lodge prior to obtaining planning permission.

The designers are outraged by his proposals for the lodge, believed to have been built in the 18th century and which became an emblem for English country house design through renowned decorator John Fowler, who moved into the house in 1947, and Nicky Haslam, who lived there until 2019.

As reported in the Daily Mail, Mr Conran, 62, said: “I don’t believe that John Fowler could possibly have believed that such additions would be possible. The National Trust is surely beholden to ensure that this truly beautiful building and its gardens are preserved without interference.”

Interior decorator John Tanner has been leading the objections and urged his 27,000 Instagram followers to complain to the council over the proposals, which he said “blocks the public’s view of the house and uses materials not in keeping with a listed property in a protected area of Odiham Common”.

He said Mr Sultana has already made some of the changes without gaining planning permission, including erecting a fence around the building.

So far, more than 70 people have submitted formal objections to the council.

British fashion and interior designer Tomasz Starzewski was one of those to object.

He said: “It has come to our attention that this very special piece of heritage is being mistreated and turned into a high security compound that is ignoring the overall landscaping of this property.”

He continued: “Please fulfil your responsibilities and allow this house to breath on the landscape that it was built on and not become another wire fence cage that ignores all appropriate historical detailing and design.”

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Jeremy Rye, a landscape architect from London, also objected. He said: “In installing these changes, knowing that they require planning permission, the applicant has shown a fragrant disregard for the planning process and its desire to protect the future of our listed buildings and landscapes.”

Mr Sultana has since said to the Gazette: "I first fell in love with the Hunting Lodge as a teenager. To be its current occupier was a dream of mine for many years. When, after a very lengthy and in depth application process I was awarded the custodianship, I was thrilled and it was something I was both delighted and excited to take on.

"I appreciate that the custodianship of this unique house was hotly contended and I understand that not everyone was happy when my tenancy was announced. However I would like to assure everyone that loves the house as much as I do, that both the National Trust and I have only the house and the garden's best interests at heart.

"We are working together tirelessly on the conservation and restoration programme, from the exterior to the interior. Every piece of John Fowler and Nicky Haslam's legacy is being carefully preserved to ensure that this precious jewel remains part of our country's heritage for many more years to come."

A statement from the National Trust said: "Our tenant selection process is never about the highest bidder. When selecting a tenant for a residential property we take into consideration a number of factors including their suitability for that particular property, their connections to the local area, and their ability to pay the rent and other running costs.

"As a charity we must obtain market rent for our let property; this is achieved by conducting comparable research, advertising on known platforms such as Rightmove, and in the case of the hunting lodge we also sought external expertise on the rental value.

"It was equally important that we found a tenant who was sympathetic to the property’s prestigious past, its architectural style, and our aims to protect its character. The selection process for the lodge was extremely thorough, and advertising to letting took 10 months."