Property firm that let a Grade II-listed mansion in Liverpool ‘fall into ruins’ is fined £80,000 in ‘landmark’ legal prosecution brought by the city council. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool City Council is hailing what it calls a “landmark” legal victory against a property firm that allowed a Grade II-listed mansion to “fall into ruins”.
Magistrates have handed out an £80,000 fine to Woolton Developments One Ltd, a company registered in Manchester. The court ruled it has neglected St Gabriels, a late Georgian mansion once used as a nursery and convent.
Located in Beaconsfield Road in Woolton, the mansion was built in 1828 as Knolle Park. In August 2016 the company secured planning consent for development in the grounds of the building and its conversion to flats.
However, the company failed to adhere to its planning permission and a case was brought to Liverpool Magistrates Court by the council. A listed building enforcement notice was issued in May 2017.
Due to poor security, the site had also been accessed by vandals over the years, with reports of at least three fires.
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 “the company’s culpability 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 to a fine of £80,000, ordered it to pay costs of £5,688.87 and a surcharge of £2,000.
Cllr 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.”