Liverpool City Council has won a landmark case in successfully prosecuting a building company for letting a historic Grade II listed building fall into ruins.
Woolton Developments One Ltd has been fined £80,000 for its neglect of St Gabriels, a late Georgian mansion once used as a nursery and convent.
The Manchester-listed company has been found guilty of ignoring a listed building enforcement notice for five years.
It is the first case of its kind won by Liverpool City Council and sets a precedent for any future cases of neglected historic buildings in the city.
The case was brought to Liverpool Magistrates Court by the Council when the company failed to adhere to planning permission, granted in August 2016, for development in the grounds of the building on Beaconsfield Road, Woolton, south Liverpool, and its conversion to flats.
Due to poor security, the site had also been accessed by vandals over the years, with reports of at least three fires.
As a result of the decay to the building, which was built in 1828 as Knolle Park, a listed building enforcement notice was issued in May 2017.
An appeal extended the time period for replacing some of the key architectural features of the building which had been lost. This extended timetable was not adhered to and the building continued to suffer further damage and decay.
Despite written notice and instructions from the Council, Woolton Developments One Ltd, which has one company director, a Mr William Rogers, did not appear in court.
After hearing submissions from a representative of the Council’s Legal Services department, District Judge Healey concluded that “thecompany’sculpability was high due to their lack of engagement, both in terms of the notice compliance and the court proceedings.”
Judge Healey also explained that this case involved a valuable community asset that the company had allowed – and continues to allow – to deteriorate.
Having considered the above factors, he sentenced Woolton Developments One Limited as follows:
Councillor Nick Small, Cabinet Member for Growth and Economy, said: “The Council welcomes this landmark verdict against Woolton Developments One Ltd.
“This is a significant fine which reflects the severity of the neglect of what is a community assert that has sadly been allowed to rot and become a blot on the landscape.
“This successful prosecution also supports the great work of our planning and legal teams to encourage development in the city, but also to protect our historic assets.
“I hope this judgement sends a clear message to any company that is looking to renovate a historic building in Liverpool. If they fail to honour their permission and responsibilities, we will be coming after you.”
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