A property developer planned make serious money from turning a 19th century Worcestershire villa into four luxury flats worth as much as £750,000 each. Now says he's going to lose money on the enterprise - after running into trouble with the council over a historic greenhouse.
Richard Rosebourne, a 32-year-old property millionaire, obtained permission to convert Heron Lodge into flats in 2012, on the condition that the run down Georgian orangery was carefully restored. It has never been listed, but is considered to be one of the last remaining structures of this kind, and so the council decided that it must be preserved.
However, the Worcester News reported that when the developer turned his attention to the historic greenhouse, he discovered there was asbestos underneath. While he was dismantling it in order to remove the asbestos, the poor state of the structure meant it was reduced to rubble.
He then submitted an application for retrospective permission for the demolition, and the shocked council refused. The newspaper reported that several councillors and a local historical society were outraged.
According to the Daily Mail, Worcester City Council has now ordered Rosebourne to rebuild the entire structure, and has warned him that if it isn't done to a high enough standard it will not hesitate to take him to court. The rebuild is expected to cost £20,000 and Rosebourne says the project will now lose money.
He told the newspaper: "The council knew the greenhouse was always going to fall down and a new one was going to be put up. It's a Victorian off-the-shelf greenhouse. There's nothing special about it. We are going to have to ... get one made bespoke.... That will be the main issue that puts the project in debt."
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An order to rebuild a structure is much less common than orders to demolish, but does happen occasionally when a council wants to prove a point.
Last year developers were ordered to rebuild a £500,000 family home in Grimsby that they had illegally demolished. The building had been flattened in just 49 minutes, just days after the property was sold, and was thought to have been done to make way for a large development behind the site. They never had permission for the demolition, and were given six months to rebuild to the original design.
In 2007 a Grade II-listed 1952 caretaker's cottage at a school in Putney was flattened by developers, and the council demanded it be rebuilt to exactly the same specifications - using the same materials. The building never looked particularly impressive, but the school was one of just two designed by Ernesto Goldfinger, which led to its listed status.
In Ireland in the same year developers were given just three months to rebuild a convent. The Dublin developers had moved in with a wrecking ball shortly after the authorities had started the process of adding the 1830s convent to the record of protected structures. The council insisted that the convent be reinstated to the same plans and standards as the original. However, a year later, after plenty of legal wrangling, they agreed to pay a fine of just €1,000.
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