This is the start of a Major Public Awareness campaign, the like of which has never been seen before in the UK, to highlight what Babergh District Council in South Suffolk have done under legal action, to our privately owned Important Grade 2 Listed Building.
We have all read the stories in the local papers, where the Local Councils Planning or Conservation Department have taken the private individual or company to task for carrying out works to a Listed Building and Changing its Character, all without Listed Building consent.
Normally they are humiliated in their community, Chastised through the Press and dragged through the courts by the local council to make them pay for what would be, in most cases, some very minor mistakes or misdemeanors.
This case is unique because its the other way round...
It is Babergh District Council in South Suffolk, who have carried out £84,000 of building works to a Grade 2 Listed Building, Changing the Character of the Listed Building.
All without Listed Building Consent.
The standard of building workmanship is the most appalling you have ever seen on a Grade 2 Listed Building.
Normally this work would not be allowed, but because it has been done by Babergh District Council, and they are denying anything is wrong with the workmanship, we understand from Charles Mynors that the Council cannot be impugned in any formal action.?
We understand not everybody will have the time or the wish to view the whole website, but we suggest if you only view the following sections with photographs, it will show the inaccurate and evasive explanations Babergh District Council have given for this building workmanship the clearest examples of which can be found in the Roofing 1 Brickwork 1 2 3 4 and Foundations/Piling 1 and Qualifications 1. If you only have time to view these few pages, it will be enough for you to understand what we are concerned about. Hopefully it will encourage you to view the rest of the website using the navigation buttons on the left of the page.
You will find the website is a truly amazing catalogue of unbelievable workmanship and comments from Babergh District Council, English Heritage and other individuals organisations.
Babergh District Council also have a responsibility to ensure that the quality of their workmanship meets the normal criteria of Listed Building Control. There cannot be separate standards of workmanship for Local Planning / Conservation Authorities and private Applicants.
Most Independent Historical Building Experts agree, If we had Listed Building Consent and had carried out the works to this appalling standard of workmanship, the council would be well justified in Enforcement / Court action against us and to ask for the maximum penalty to be imposed for damage to a Listed Building. Being very concerned at this appalling standard of building workmanship carried out to our Listed Building by Babergh District Council. I have looked in depth at the Qualifications of the Senior Conservation Officer in charge of Instigating, Authorising, Supervising and approving these appalling works which was:- Mr Richard Ward Conservation Officer at Babergh District Council.
The mill had stood there for 200 years, without any legal action or repairs notices being served on the owners. The previous owners family had owned Sproughton Water Mill for 50 years, and never received any legal action or repairs notices regarding the structural condition of Sproughton Water Mill at all, even though they applied to demolish the mill in 1993.
Sproughton Water Mill was for sale locally for 5 years, from 1989 to August 1995 and nobody was prepard to take on Sproughton Water Mill except us.
In August 1995 Sproughton Water Mill was purchased by us with outline Consent for residential use.
In October 1995 a Full Planning & Listed Building Application to restore Sproughton Water Mill was put in to Babergh District Council.
In November 1995 Babergh District Council started Litigation against us.
On 31st January 1996 Planning committee resolved the Head of the Planning Dept would grant us Planning & Listed Building consent on recipt of suitably amended drawings.
On 21st May 1996 Babergh District Council started £87.000.00 worth of building works, which the Council said was urgently necessary for the preservation of a Listed Building ! (the works are now under investigation by the Secretary of State and a decision is due Febuary 2003).
On 2nd September 1996 Babergh District Council gave us Planning & Listed Building Consent for us to carry out the works ourselves !
Suprise Suprise ! Just when the council finished its works !
We have spent six years trying to get Babergh District Council to accept responsibility for their bad workmanship. It has cost us thousands of pounds for Historical Experts, Solicitors, Barristers, etc., Not to mention our time...
When we should have been restoring this beautiful water mill instead we have invoices totaling £84,000 from Babergh District Council for works that they have carried out at Sproughton Water Mill, after refusing to give us Planning and Listed Building Consent to carry out the works ourselves.
Sproughton Water Mill
The Listed Building Nightmare
An extraordinary private website has been brought my attention, and very instructive it is too. To be found at www.sproughtonwatermill.com, it is entitled Sproughton Water Mill: The Listed Building Nightmare and is thought to be the work of the family who bought the derelict mill in 1995.
The family has a large, festering grievance as well they might have, hence their sophisticated website, which reproduces a mass of photographs and documents illuminating their battles with Babergh District Council in South Suffolk, threats from whose legal department have removed some matter from the screen, but even if half what is left is true, however, then what has happened to this Grade II Listed Building is indeed appalling and scandalous.
Sproughton Water Mill, a handsome red-brick structure in the “Functional Tradition” was built over the River Gipping around 1817-20 for the Constable family of East Bergholt by the engineer Sir William Cubitt. It remained in use until 1946, when it was brought by the Hughes-Reckitt family, who removed the internal machinery and allowed the mill to fall into disrepair. Grade 3 listed in 1947 up graded to Grade 2 with GV in 1988. In 1989 the mill was offered for sale. It not having sold, in 1992 the owner, Patrick Hughes-Reckitt, applied to demolish it, claiming it would cost £270,000 to restore. The owners never received any legal action or enforcement action regarding the condition of the mill during their ownership which was 49 years.
In the same year the Suffolk Mills Group tried to buy the mill and found that, according to consulting engineer Mr Brian Morton, an admired specialist with experience of historic structures, it was not in imminent danger of collapse and would only cost £65,500 to restore.
Mr Jones family bought the derelict mill in August 1995, with outline planning consent for conversion to residential use. He claims that at the time he had no idea there had been controversy over the building, or that the Suffolk Mills Group had been trying to buy it for several years It seems, however, that acquisition by the Suffolk Mills Group was favoured option of Babergh District Council in Suffolk, its Senior Conservation Officer Richard Ward and one of his work colleagues Mark Barnard Historic Buildings Officer at Suffolk County Council who is interestingly also Editor of the Suffolk Mills Group Newsletter.
In September 1995, unbeknown to Mr Jones family, Babergh District Council had started Legal Action to serve a Section 54 Notice on the new owners of Sproughton Water Mill saying it was now in danger of collapse, which is very convenient as it was not in danger before it was sold. In the guidelines of the service of a Section 54 planning (LBCA) Act 1990, Legal Notice with respect to Listed Buildings will achieve little without the will to purchase it compulsory. So, Babergh District Council had the will to compulsorily purchase Sproughton Water Mill ONLY 57 DAYS after it was sold to a new owner.
In October 1995 Mr Jones family put in a full Planning and Listed Building application for the restoration of the mill. In November 1995 the council served Mr Jones family with a repairs notice under Section 54 of the Planning Act. In January 1996 Mr Jones was told that the council's planning committee would grant full planning permission and listed building consent for his proposed restoration and conversion work, if he submitted amended drawings. In 21st May 1996 his family was served without prior notice a Section 78 Emergency Measures Notice and on the next seven days the council carried out £7.500 pounds of so called emergency works which made the building in the councils view “Safe from Collapse, Wind and Weatherproof, and action to prevent vandalism or theft.
On the 22nd May 1996 another Section 54 Repairs Notice was served, as the emergency works were being carried out. When the emergency works were completed and the building was “Safe from Collapse, Wind and Weatherproof, and action to prevent vandalism or theft had been done, On the 30th May 1996 the council started works under the Section 54 Notice dated 22.5.1996, which was removing 80% of the emergency works previously carried out and demolishing the whole 4 storey corner of the mill, these notices carried out, what Babergh District Council thought were urgently necessary works, to ensure the stability of the building. These works were completed by the following September 1996, when Mr Jones familys Planning application was at last given permission and he could legally start works. He was then presented with a bill for £85,000 of works, which have changed the character of this listed building, and he considers the works were totally unnecessary for the preservation of the listed building.
All this is most remarkable, notoriously; local authorities are very reluctant to serve Repairs Notices and Emergency Measures Notices lest they be saddled with the cost. Local Authorities usually use powers of intervention which they have, rightly, to protect a listed building only when an owner has conspicuously neglected it for decades, and even then only when they are goaded into action by English Heritage, amenity societies, SAVE Britain's Heritage or the local press. In this case (as Mr Jones tells it) Babergh District Council started legal action a mere 57 days after they had purchased Sproughton Water Mill, and the council moved in to safeguard its future just after Mr Jones family had purchased and applied for consents to carry out the restoration of the mill themselves.
While I dare not comment on the rights and wrongs of the case (lawyers have long been involved), what is clear from the evidence of the photographs on screen is that something horrible happened to Sproughton Water Mill in 1996, and Mr Jones and his family has complained about the standard of work, as well he might, ever since.
The new piles were not driven in to the depths specified, the black glazed pan tile roof were repaired with unglazed pan tiles, red pan tiles were used on the roof and some which were broken, also cement repairs between the pan tiles which makes it look worse than before, the brickwork arches have had cut bricks used in the centre to make them fit, the brickwork was laid with much wider vertical joints than existing, and using a harder cement mortar mix instead of the lime putty mortar which is now recognize as the best for historic buildings, especially ones like this one, which need to breathe and move. Worst of all, is the fact that a whole corner of the mill, four storey high, was demolished and when it was rebuilt the windows on one elevation were three courses out of alignment with those on the other! See for yourself the appalling works carried out to a listed building by Babergh District Council and draw your own conclusions at www.sproughtonwatermill.com
So, a listed building has been ruined forever and the character changed…..
Yet Babergh District Council, the local English Heritage Officer and the Secretary of State's inspector have all approved the work. What has been going on? Perhaps we shall find out soon. In 1999 Mr Jones family appealed under the Planning Act that the works carried out by Babergh District Council were unnecessary for the preservation of a Listed Building. The Secretary of State's decision is due on 15th August 2003, See what they said and how they covered their backs.