Developers fined £55k for removing historic fixtures from every room of Lincoln home

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A property development company has been ordered to pay more than £55,000 after ignoring heritage planners and removing historic fabric and fixtures from a listed building without consent

Newell’s Projects Limited, its director David Newell and Paul Priestley, a site manager employed by the company, had all previously pleaded guilty to six offences relating to the removal of irreplaceable features at the grade-II listed Castle Moat House.

City of Lincoln Council took action against the three parties after discovering the unapproved alterations to the property, situated on Drury Lane, close to Lincoln Castle, in February 2016.

Castle Moat House was built within the moat of Lincoln Castle in around 1820 as a large family home. Further additions and improvements were made to it during the mid-19th century.

Many of the historic features damaged or destroyed by the developer date from these periods.

The offences were:

  • Removing historic lime plaster wall surfaces in 12 rooms
  • Removing historic ceilings in seven rooms
  • Removal of a section of historic roof purlin and rafters
  • Removal of decorative cornices and skirting boards in four and 14 rooms respectively
  • Creating two new doorways through internal walls
  • Removal of historic timber lintels

At a sentencing hearing at the magistrates’ court on Friday, January 13,  District Judge Peter Veits ordered the three parties to pay a total of £55,410:

  • Newell’s Projects Limited – £12,000 fine, £12,000 costs and £170 victims’ surcharge
  • David Newell – £12,000 fine, £12,000 costs and £170 victims’ surcharge
  • Paul Priestley – £3,900 fine, £3,000 costs and £170 victims’ surcharge

Councillor Neil Murray, Portfolio Holder for Planning Policy and Economic Regeneration at the city council, said: “It is an offence to carry out work to a listed building without the necessary consent, and we are pleased the level of these fines recognise the seriousness of these offences.

“Causing harm to the character of a building of special architectural or historic interest is not acceptable and, while we don’t take the decision to prosecute lightly, we will always take action against breaches of the heritage protection legislation where this is in the public interest.

“The city of Lincoln is blessed with an especially rich history and historic environment and City of Lincoln Council is the custodian of our heritage along with central government. Our heritage planning team works hard to help the owners of listed and protected properties to ensure that heritage isn’t lost and to offer advice, so there is no excuse not to ensure work is carried out properly.

“In this case, officers met the owner on site and provided advice on the consents required, but work needing listed building consent was still undertaken.”

In mitigation, the defendants claimed that it was their intention to refurbish the house for use as a family home.

Kieron Manning, the city council’s Planning Manager, added: “When heritage significance is lost – in this case through deliberate and widespread modernisation of a listed building – it cannot be replaced. All that can be done is reinstatement and repair of historically significant features with traditional materials and techniques.

“However that building may look at the end of that modernisation process, something of value which should be sustained for the benefit of present and future generations has been lost.”

Sentencing the three parties, District Judge Peter Veits said: “This case involves the purchase of a property on Drury Lane somewhere in the heart of the old, historic part of the city.

“The law is understandably strict with listed buildings – if they are lost, they are lost forever. Lincoln is a city built on its heritage.

“Those who choose to take on buildings such as this recognise what they are taking on. They are taking on part of history, they are taking on an undertaking to maintain history, to maintain those buildings to their proper state, no matter the costs and time involved. There can be no shortcuts in that.”