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Enforcing the law is not always straightforward. As this
article by Rosalind Willatts shows, difficult decisions are
often necessary when dealing with those carrying out
unauthorised work.


BAGGRAVE HALL, LEICESTERSHIRE
This sad story illustrates the frustrations and problems involved in attempting to control works to listed buildings. During the ownership by an off-shore company from October 1988 to October 1990 an elegant lived-in house was changed to a gaunt unliveable-in building internally stripped and much damaged. Some stonework was removed and walls were undermined. The asserted intentions were to renovate the building to the highest standards as a retreat for a wealthy businessman.

THE BAGGRAVE ESTATE
The Baggrave Estate, although only 7 miles north-east of Leicester, is in a remote sparsely populated area. The Hall itself is one of the buildings furthest from the Harborough District Council offices. It appears as a Palladian white stone box of 1752, set well back from the road and peeping modestly through the parkland trees, and is the sole remnant of the medieval village of Baggrave.
The Local Planning Authority was concerned about the Hall and estate as the whole is a well documented historic landscape. In addition to the hall (Grade II*) are stables of 1859 (Grade II) and an early 19th century gazebo in the garden (spot listed in September 1989). The gardens and park are on the National Gardens Register.

WHAT HAPPENED
In June 1988, prior to the sale of the estate, a local builder submitted a Listed Building application to demolish the red brick north wing. This was structurally suspect, dated from 1859 and was visually discordant with the Hall.
The application was duly referred in September 1988 to the Secretary of State, who delayed making a decision on it. But for this delay no-one would have been aware that anything was amiss.
In mid-December the builder preparing
the Hall for its new owner expressed concern at the delay in issuing a decision to demolish the north wing. As a result, I and an Inspector from English Heritage visited the Hall in early January to discuss the application. By this time work had been in progress for three months without the knowledge or approval of the Council.
The condition of the Hall was stark compared with when last seen before it had been sold. Some attached outbuildings (of no quality or significance) had been demolished, there were many workmen on site and much undefined work was in progress. The floors, walls and ceilings to the attics had been removed. Some partition walls were being constructed, and other alterations were obviously intended.
The agent seemed indifferent to concerns expressed on site, ignoring subsequent letters requesting him to submit a full LBC application with plans of his proposed works and to cease all work except with the Council’s knowledge and agreement. He later stated orally that an LBC application for alterations was ludicrous as he was only doing what the owner wanted! The following six months were a nightmare.
A tenuous dialogue ensued through a local architect involving London representatives of the owner. We were assured that plans were being prepared. In early March,
with no plans received, an unscheduled visit revealed that, far from ceasing, unauthorised works were proceeding apace; the most obvious being that the brown ironstone plinth to the hall was partially removed and was being unnecessarily replaced by white limestone. The limestone floor to the hall was gone (it has not yet been found).
The agent was immediately advised in writing to stop work until it was clear that consent was not needed or had been obtained. Enforcement action was threatened. A Requisition Order for information was served. Several days were spent listing the unauthorised works in order to prepare a Listed Building Enforcement Notice. Meanwhile the works continued.
The Requisition Order revealed an owner and occupier other than mentioned in the June 1988 application. That applicant may not even have existed. The legal owner was an off-shore company, and the Hall and estate were occupied by/tenanted by another company. More significantly, two architects representing the owner, one of whom signed the requisition, then visited the Planning Department in person.
Intensive negotiations followed and some plans for LBC were submitted, scrutinised, amended, clarified and made sufficiently comprehensive to allow for reasonable minor alterations and rectification of works done. The architects assured us that no new works would be undertaken “during the period of negotiation and agreement”; yet the works continued and their scope and seriousness increased. The architects’ instructions to the agent/contractor were seemingly ignored. Every visit to the Hall to consider the LBC application revealed yet more unauthorised works.
In June 1989, after frenzied activity at the Hall, all works suddenly ceased and the contractor disappeared from the site. In August an article in the farming press
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