AN HISTORIC farmhouse near Stratford has been ‘seriously harmed’ by unauthorised alterations.
A court heard the use of inappropriate roof timbers and plasterwork at Grade II listed 18th century house at Lower Farm, Admington, near Atherstone-on-Stour, could never be properly rectified.
And a judge at Warwick Crown Court said architect Neil Shepherd ‘should have known better’ – because he had previously been a listed building officer with Stratford District Council.
In a prosecution brought by the council, Shepherd, of Grafton Lane, Binton, Stratford, admitted two charges of allowing the alteration to a listed building without authorisation.
The 67 year-old was fined a total of £4,000 which he was given six months to pay or face three months in prison in default, and was ordered to pay £10,000 towards the council’s expenses.
Prosecutor Sarah Clover said Shepherd had been prosecuted under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act which prevents any alteration which would affect the character of a listed building without authorisation.
But unauthorised work was carried out at Lower Farm, which was listed in 1972 and is said to be ‘a good example’ of an 18th century farmhouse.
One of the charges related to the replacement of roof timbers known as purlins, which run the length of the roof, with timber which was inappropriate in nature and in size.
The other charge related to the use of timber studding and plasterboard to replace the historic lime plaster which had been removed from internal walls without authorisation.
A district council planning enforcement officer visited the farmhouse after hearing unauthorised work was being carried out.
Miss Clover added: “The extensive internal work seriously harmed the character of the building and cannot now be properly rectified.”
Naomi Gilchrist, defending, said: “He has suffered the most huge loss of reputation, and has lost a large client as a result of this.”
“Things were done, quite unexpected by him, at the behest of others. He regularly came in after weekends to find work had been done which he had not approved.”
Miss Gilchrist said it had always been Shepherd’s intention the existing roof timbers should remain and that any replacement timbers should run alongside them.
But when he returned from a holiday he found most of the original timbers had been stripped off the roof, although he and the structural engineer had made it plain that should not happen, and original plasterwork had been removed from internal walls.
Fining Shepherd, Recorder Marcus Tregilgas-Davey told him: “You were entrusted with overseeing certain works to that building. That meant ensuring they complied with the relevant legislation. In that, you failed.
“The removal of the timbers was not your fault, but the replacement with inappropriate timbers was your fault. Again, the removal of the original plaster was not your fault, but the replacement of it with new plasterwork was.
“I’m told you allowed yourself to go along with the unsatisfactory timber and plasterwork.
“But you had worked as a listed building officer with the council in question. Because of that, and because of your position as the architect, you clearly should have known better.”