Demolition of historic Harpenden building granted planning permission - after it is already knocked down

PUBLISHED: 10:01 20 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:14 20 May 2019

The demolished house is near East Common in Harpenden. Picture: Google Maps

The demolished house is near East Common in Harpenden. Picture: Google Maps

Archant

A locally listed building in Harpenden was demolished without planning permission amid extension work.

The original Eastmoor Lodge house was the only remaining 1930s building left on its road near East Common, and was in the Harpenden Conservation Area.

Despite being locally listed as an undesignated heritage asset, applications to extend and change the building were approved under delegated authority by St Albans district council (SADC) officers.

While these legal works were underway, the rest of the building was also taken down in sections.

A shell of a new house was already partially erected when a retrospective planning application for the demolition was submitted to SADC.

Mark Wilkinson, of architects Louis de Soissons, wrote a report explaining their decision, dated May 30: "At the commencement of the planned demolition works it became apparent the original 1930's [sic] property had been very poorly constructed with minimal foundations, inadequate quantity of wall ties and very weak mortar."

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It has all now been retrospectively approved by the SADC Planning (Development Control) Committee North on May 13.

However, councillors stressed in the meeting that given the choice, they would not have approved the original extension.

Stephen Levrant, from Heritage Architecture, spoke for the applicant. He said after all the changes, the former building contained only two walls of the original 1930s structure and that the former architect had been "dismissed and disgraced": "The fact is, the structure was unsafe, due to many consented alternations and had inherent major defects from the original construction which in itself was substandard.

"You have not lost any valuable local listed building due to this application. Its fate was sealed long ago."

Cllr Sandra Wood said she was very uncomfortable with the decision and is worried about what message it sends out.

Cllr Paul Cousin said the "test" to knock it down was not met, but that the previous approved applications were significant: "So what are we saying? Are we suggesting they rebuild the original house?

"If we want them to do that, they have got permission to make it look like the thing that is in front of us anyway so it would seem to be a complete waste."

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