Ditchling History Project – Hideaway Place

An update from Ditchling History Project, including 20th century planning legislation and a discussion of Hideaway Place on Lewes Road.


Project News

We continue to hold an open afternoon every second Wednesday of the month in The White Horse. Come along if you want to tell us something you know about our local history. We are keen to learn. Alternatively, if you have something you want to know come along and we will see whether our accumulated knowledge and our database can come up with an answer.



Early 20th century planning legislation was largely ineffective in reducing urban sprawl and ribbon development. The outline of the Ditchling settlement expanded dramatically between c1925 c1955 with Neville Cottages, Long Park Corner, Shirleys and much of East Gardens and Common Lane being built.

The Town & Country Planning Acts of 1947 & 1954 introduced far stricter controls and led to the introduction of settlement boundaries, Green Belts, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks and, eventually, Conservation Areas. For Ditchling this has resulted in developments largely being infilling within the settlement boundary, examples of which, entailing three or more houses, are Dumbrells Court, Charlton Gardens, Brangwyn’s Acre, Emett Gardens, 17 – 25 South St. and Smith’s Yard.



The latest of these developments is Hideaway Place on the Lewes Rd where three houses have been completed with two more under construction. It’s so-called because the previous house on the site, now demolished, was called ‘Hideaway’. The houses are being built by a family business, Benjamin Allen Construction Ltd. Patriarch, Allen Dawson and Matriarch Michele Dawson who have four sons.


Allen and Michele bought their first house at ages 19 & 18 and then two years later did a self-build. Allen was a BT Telephone Engineer until 1984 when they decided they preferred working in the building industry as a team. He left BT and they started speculative building projects. Hit hard by the recession in the 1990s Allen accepted a position as a Project Manager working for his older brother who manufactured and supplied prefabricated building kits.


Sons Scott and Ross have both studied at University of Brighton studying Construction Management and Civil Engineering respectively. After leaving university both joined ‘Willmot Dixon’ a commercial Construction Company’. Ben became a fully qualified carpenter and worked in his uncle’s business.


In 2008 Allen left his brother’s business together with Ben, they formed a business called ‘Unique New Homes Ltd’. In the same year the family came to Ditchling, bought a building plot in Beacon Road and built ‘The Moat House’ for themselves.


Scott and Ross left Wilmot in 2013/4 to join the family business. With three of their four sons now employees, a new company was incorporated in 2015 ‘Benjamin Allen Construction Ltd’ [BA], of which Allen (Managing), Michele (Site Project Manager), Scott (Site Project Manager, H & S, Web Design), Ben (Site Construction) and Ross (Quantity Surveying, Estimating, Contracts & Commercial) are directors. At the same time a holding company ‘Benjamin Allen Bespoke Homes Ltd’ was formed in which each director has equal shares.


The brothers have sold their previous homes and bought and live in the first three completed houses in Hideaway Place. Scott & Ben have children at St Margaret’s over the fence.


BA carry out all forms of construction, brick and block, insulated concrete formwork and timber frame, of which most is timber frame. They say “we turn the site into a factory” with the timber frames manufactured on site. Two of the current houses in Hideaway Place are timber frame, with brick cladding, but the roadside one (see photo) is conventional brick and block. BA has developed a ‘Georgian Farmhouse’ signature design but builds to any style including contemporary. BA tries to use local materials wherever possible, including handmade bricks and roof tiles such as in Hideaway Place.


The Dawsons say “…our passion is building… and looking back and being proud of what we have built, we love new ideas and working with our clients to achieve their dreams.”


Projects primarily take two forms:

  • ‘Client commissioned’ (which is the majority) entails building to a client’s design and specification, on a fixed price contract with a staged payment schedule. This is usually a so-called ‘Full Turnkey’ when they build a house from foundations to final decoration.
  • ‘Speculative build’ when BA purchase a plot of land with planning permission then build the house to sell it on the open market.


Many of BA’s clients decide to demolish an existing house and build from scratch an energy efficient home, which also carries the advantage, over renovation, of being zero rated for VAT. BA work with several architects – the lead architect on Hideaway Place being the Ditchling based firm David Grey Associates. Planning permission was granted for five houses.


One of the two remaining under construction, ‘Honeysuckle Cottage’, will be a ‘Discount Market Sales’ [DMS] property in accordance with the National Park policy governing developments of five or more houses, and sold with a 27% discount to a qualifying person. The 27% continues to apply in any subsequent sale.


Prior to Hideaway Place BA has built five single houses in Ditchling including ‘The Moat House’ Beacon Rd, ‘Old Market Garden’ Nye Lane, ‘The Mulberry’ North Common Lane,Ten Acres’ Beacon Road, and a new build in East Gardens.


The Dawsons are very optimistic about the future for BA and say they have built a good reputation locally and most orders come from recommendation. They employ a number of local people and work with a large team of sub-contractors, many of whom they have worked with for several years. During the pandemic, two projects were asked to be put on hold by the clients and although there was a big increase in the price of materials BA honoured the original fixed priced contracts. They are on average, able to carry out five full builds a year and have plenty of work scheduled until 2024 with only a small amount of space for further orders.


Find out more about the local area by visiting Ditchling History Project’s website or attending one of their meetings on the 2nd Wednesday of the month.

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