Conservationists are angry that a south London council is to sell a Grade II listed cemetery lodge for almost half its value.

The lodge (right), thought to be one of the finest examples of the work of architect James Bunstone Bunning, is being sold to its tenant under the Government's right to buy legislation.

The Friends of Nunhead Cemetery believe that West Lodge, one of two Grade II listed gate lodges at the site in Linden Grove, Southwark, should be kept in public hands as a permanent warden's lodge.

Daniel Mannix, a former park warden, is buying the lodge, built in 1844 and valued at pounds 105,000, from Southwark Council for pounds 55,000. It became a council house after being rennovated 13 years ago.

For the past 10 years, Mr Mannix has lived in the one-storey early Victorian building with its stone porch and square columns in the mock Classical style which, with its 80ft garden and surround of conifer trees, is an ideal place his two children to play.

Because he has lived in the house, which was formerly linked to his job, for 10 years, Mr Mannix is entitled to the maximum discount of pounds 50,000.

Geoff Hart, co-ordinator of the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery, said: 'Buildings such as West Lodge and other park lodges should remain in public ownership. Danny isn't doing anything illegal, I have no fight with him.

'But if the council had thought to exclude buildings like this from the right to buy legislation, this could have been prevented.

Mr Mannix said: 'It's a smashing place. I used to adore it, but all the aggro I've had to go through to get it has soured the whole thing for me. The lobby against the sale has been so great that I feel like I have broken the law, and I have not. I just want to get a foot on the housing ladder. Once I get the house, I plan to sell it. After all, it is not a member of my family, it's just a house.'

Southwark Council said: 'People who think he is getting the house at a knock-down price will say it is a scandal. But Government legislation compels the council to sell the properties. It is then that the most desirable properties are snapped up.

'Southwark is keen to retain the property because of the character of the building. We wrote to the Department of the Environment last year asking the Government to exempt properties such as these from the right to buy scheme. We felt the DoE had introduced it without looking closely at the law. But the department was unsympathetic and said the existing laws were adequate.

Nunhead Cemetery was built by the London Cemetery Company, the builders of Highgate Cemetery, and opened in 1840. Bunning laid out the 30-acre site and also designed the gates.

Southwark took over the cemetery in the mid-Seventies after it fell into disrepair, and reopened part for burials in 1980. Other notable London buildings by Bunning include the Coal Exchange in Lower Thames Street, demolished to make way for an office block, and Holloway Prison.

(Photograph omitted)

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