Kersey: Planning inspectors overrule council’s heritage home verdict

Drainage ditch dug around Little Manor, Church Hill, Kersey Near Hadleigh.

Drainage ditch dug around Little Manor, Church Hill, Kersey Near Hadleigh. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

Owners of a dilapidated 15th century house who were forced to take their case to a government inspector have warned that flaws in the planning process are putting heritage properties at risk.

Little Manor in Kersey is indanger of collapse because Babergh heritage officers won't let the owner

Little Manor in Kersey is indanger of collapse because Babergh heritage officers won't let the owners do the necessary repairs - Credit: Archant

Liz Crosbie and her husband Professor Edward Higgs, who own Little Manor in Kersey, wanted to remove a brick floor and install internal land drains to stop the property from collapsing due to rising groundwater.

They have paid out more than £30,000 on five different applications relating to the property during the past three years, and were eventually forced to have their proposal determined by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate after Babergh District Council twice exceeded the statutory deadline for making a decision.

The district authority has defended its conservation team and the way heritage applications are handled.

But the Planning Inspectorate has now ruled that the appeal should be allowed and listed building consent granted for repairs and restoration work on Little Manor.

Despite the ruling, Ms Crosbie told the EADT she was angry that it had taken the Secretary of State to allow her to “restore a heritage building in desperate need of repair”.

She said: “While we have been waiting, we have only been able to put in one drain and demolish an extension, and we have spent thousand of pounds.

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“Because it has gone on for so long, we have lost our builder and the parish council has become very agitated because Little Manor is a very important building that is currently blighting the village.

“I am sad that Babergh has pushed it to this level, even against the advice of its own committee. There have been serious consequences as a result of the way this has been handled.”

In his report, government inspector Roger Shrimplin noted that the proposed works should be “welcomed to restore the building and ensure that it can be put to use”.

He continued: “I accept that there is bound to be some uncertainty about the impact of the works on the building but I am persuaded that the appeal scheme offers the best opportunity to end the continuing deterioration of the building and to provide it with a long term future.”

The couple have called for an urgent meeting with Babergh’s heritage planners and are seeking advice from the Local Government Ombudsman.

Ms Crosbie continued: “We have got through one hurdle but have to find out what conditions they (Babergh) will set and how they are going to manage the process from now on.”

Babergh councillor Dawn Kendall, who also owns a heritage house, welcomed the appeal decision and said she hoped the council would learn from its mistakes.

She added: “I am pleased to see that common sense and pragmatism has prevailed without compromising the letter of the law with regard to conservation and heritage.

“There is a lot for conservation and planning officers to learn from this costly and time consuming exercise.

“On too many occasions we have seen bad decisions overturned in this way. With changes in structure and personnel at the council, let’s hope that we do not put any more of our long suffering owners of listed properties through these unnecessary trials.”

A spokesman for Babergh said an “on-going dialogue” was taking place with the owners of Little Manor in relation to their listed building application.

He added: “The appeal has subsequently been allowed subject to six conditions, which require among other things the submission of further information which was absent from the original application to Babergh.

“Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils have established an integrated staffing team and the heritage officers will continue to provide professional and impartial advice to the owners of listed buildings.”

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