Property developer fined �14,000

A PROPERTY developer from Suffolk has been fined �14,000 for making unauthorised alterations to his Grade II listed home.

Elliot Furniss

A PROPERTY developer from Suffolk has been fined �14,000 for making unauthorised alterations to his Grade II listed home.

Maxwell Hembry demolished internal walls at his Woodbridge house so he could convert a coal cellar into a kitchen, a court has heard.

Situated on the corner of Chapel Street and Bredfield Street, Burkitt House lies within a designated conservation area and has been described as one of the finest homes in the town.

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But magistrates in Ipswich heard how the renovation has had an irreversible effect on the character of the property.

The case has been used as warning to other owners of listed buildings of the consequences of not seeking official advice and consent before carrying out work.

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Hembry pleaded guilty to one charge of executing demolitions or alterations to the Grade II-listed building without planning permission at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Wednesday.

Ian de Prez, acting for Suffolk Coastal District Council, which brought the prosecution, said: “The removal of these walls had a substantial effect on the character of the house.

“They can never be replaced. In losing these, part of the history of the house has been lost. The open-plan kitchen is of an alien shape, size and position.”

He said Hembry should have had sufficient knowledge of planning law because he was a property developer.

Nine other similar charges relating to unauthorised alterations between August 1999 and August 2006 had been withdrawn while retrospective planning applications were submitted to rectify the work, he added.

Magistrates were told that the work had been carried out after Hembry had been given planning permission to build a single-storey extension and a cart lodge in January 2004.

However, in June 2006 the council received a complaint from a member of the public about building work.

When officers at the council tried to inspect the site, the builders would not allow them access.

The council was forced to apply for a temporary stop notice and a warrant to enter the site in August. When they got onto the premises, inspectors discovered that the extension was much larger and taller than had been granted and that the cart lodge was erected with an extra storey and living accommodation against regulations.

It was during this visit that various internal works, including the renovation of the coal cellar, was also discovered.

Hugh Rowland, mitigating, said Hembry had begun the work to the coal cellar for safety reasons.

He added: “He had always acted within the best interests of the home at heart. He had the intention of restoring the building to a much-loved and functional family home.”

Chairman of the magistrates, Malcolm Hogarth, said Hembry made a deliberate attempt to keep the renovation from the authorities.

He said: “We accept you were faced with safety issues, but it is not up to an individual to decide upon the alteration of a building.”

Hembry was fined �14,000 and told to pay �2,690 in court costs. After the hearing, he said the council had handled the matter in a “very fair” manner.

He said: “We have gone through the property and refurbished it to a very, very high standard. The wall (in the cellar) had collapsed anyway and the house was falling down. Not one timber has been removed from the structure but a wall that had failed has been removed.”

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