Order to reinstate burnt-out cottage quashed

An enforcement notice requiring reconstruction of a listed cottage destroyed by fire in a Hampshire town has been quashed after an inspector ruled that no breach of listed building control had occurred.

The appeal related to a former railway cottage destroyed by fire in 2018. Although planning permission and listed building consent had been approved to rebuild the cottage, the council had issued an enforcement notice requiring it to be reinstated in the meantime. It was concerned that if the approved reconstruction was not implemented, enforcement procedures were the only remaining route to ensure that the harm caused to the building could be reversed. 

The appellants argued that no breach of listed building control had taken place because they were not responsible for the fire. The inspector noted clear evidence – uncontested by the council or the police – that the damage was caused by arson by persons unknown, so the "changes" or "works" that had affected the cottage’s character had been beyond the appellants’ control. They could not be said to have deliberately planned or willingly caused to be executed any works for the demolition of a listed building in breach of section 7 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, he held.

In similar situations, he noted, the secretary of state had found that there cannot generally be a contravention of listed building control where a building is damaged by an event totally outside the owner’s control, while it is beyond the powers of enforcement procedures to require reinstatement of property damaged or destroyed by accident. Although the fire damage in this case was clearly not an accident, he reasoned, it had not been instigated by the appellants. No contravention of listed building control had occurred, he concluded.

Inspector: Anthony Wharton; Written representations

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