Legal threat over building demolition

A ROW over the future of a landmark building badly damaged in an arson attack in Felixstowe could end up in a costly legal battle.Suffolk Coastal District Council has approved the demolition of the Herman de Stern building in a multi-million pound redevelopment of the south seafront.

A ROW over the future of a landmark building badly damaged in an arson attack in Felixstowe could end up in a costly legal battle.

Suffolk Coastal District Council has approved the demolition of the Herman de Stern building in a multi-million pound redevelopment of the south seafront.

But the Suffolk Preservation Society says the derelict building ''is an important historic building worthy of retention and is cherished by local people.'' It was badly damaged in a fire last year.

The society says the proposed demolition is against the district council's planning policy which allows the building to be used for an arts-based, catering or dining function.

Now the society has instructed legal counsel to advise on the lawfulness of the granting of planning permission.

Richard Ward, society director, said: ''In view of the contents of the structural report provided to the council which makes it clear that no urgent demolition works are required to the building for safety reasons, the society seeks the assurance of the council that it will not authorise or allow any works of demolition.

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“We are satisfied that an injunction could be obtained to prevent these works if necessary.''

He said the society and its specialist adviser had been refused permission to enter the building to examine the condition, and the district council had not consulted with the community or any stakeholders about amending the policy or the principle of demolition.

A previous scheme which involved demolition of the Herman de Stern was refused, said Mr Ward, because the demolition was contrary to policy.

Gordon Laing, vice chairman of the development control committee, said: ''At its meeting when the application for the redevelopment of the south seafront site was given unanimous and all-party approval, the committee members were informed that the Suffolk Preservation Society had not made a comment on the application as it had not been able to inspect the building.

''Councillors were also advised that the SPS had threatened to seek legal advice if a decision was made without it having been given access to the building. The Herman de Stern is not a listed building, and neither the government or English Heritage have ever seen any reason to justify granting it any official or protective status.

''Representatives of the SPS have visited the building on previous occasions prior to the arson that, I am advised, has left it in a structurally unsafe condition and which still makes it unsafe for an inspection. The council's decision to refuse access is entirely lawful and reasonable. I am surprised and disappointed to hear of this proposed legal challenge which I confirm will be resisted by the council.''

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