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HIGH PROFILE GRADE I LISTED BUILDING SAVED FOR THE NATION

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Culture secretary Tessa Jowell took steps today to ensure the long ...
Culture secretary Tessa Jowell took steps today to ensure the long

term survival of the Grade I listed Apethorpe Hall and other listed

buildings on the Apethorpe estate, considered to be one of the

highest priority properties at risk in the country.

Acting on the impartial advice of the independent Inspector who heard

all the evidence at this spring's public Inquiry into the case, Ms Jowell today confirmed that the compulsory purchase of the estate

should proceed. It was the inspector's conclusion that this step

alone provided an unequivocal guarantee that the 15th century Hall

and other listed buildings would be properly preserved. He did not

accept that reasonable steps were currently being taken to protect

the property.

The Order, which will become operative on 19 August, will allow for

the property to be purchased by the state at a fair price based on

the district valuer's estimate and agreed between the parties. If

agreement cannot be reached for any reason the value of the land and

buildings will be determined by the Lands Tribunal.

In making the Order Ms Jowell said:

'Apethorpe Hall is a rare and beautiful building of truly national

historic importance. It is an irreplaceable treasure that without

decisive action could be lost to us forever. While this is not a

decision I take lightly, it is right that every effort is made to

safeguard this wonderful piece of our heritage for everyone to

enjoy.'

The freehold of the Apethorpe estate will eventually be transferred

to English Heritage whose preferred option is to sell it on to a

private owner who will keep it intact and in single occupation. In

the meantime, its commissioners have agreed to re-prioritise their

grant-aid budget to ensure that funds are available to meet the full

cost of repairs. In advance of another winter, English Heritage will

begin as soon as possible on repairs in accordance with the works

scheduled in the repairs notice served in October 2001, and they will

at the same time market the property. If a new private owner can be

identified before the restoration programme is in full swing, they

will grant-aid the works. In either case, in return for the public

money that will be committed to urgent repairs, English Heritage will

negotiate with any prospective new owner to allow for public visitor

access, for a specified period each year, to areas of the hall such

as the once magnificent staterooms, which are of historic and

architectural importance.

Notes

Apethorpe Hall is a major country house and was listed Grade I on 23

May 1967. This places it in the top 2% of the nation's historic

buildings. It is of considerable historic and architectural

importance, originating from the 15th century and containing

important architectural elements from each subsequent century. It

has entertained Tudor and Stuart royalty, notably Elizabeth I and

James I, and is on the edge of the picturesque village of Apethorpe

in Northamptonshire. It is now in a poor and deteriorating state of

repair and is considered to be among the greatest priority

conservation cases in the country. It has been a category A building

on the English Heritage Buildings At Risk Register since a national

register was first introduced in 1998.

Reflecting concern about the condition of the buildings, in 1996 the

local planning authority, East Northamptonshire Council, started

pressing its then owner Mr Burweila to carry out the necessary works

to ensure its proper preservation. Under section 54 of the Planning

(Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 a total of seven

urgent works notices were served on Mr Burweila, two by the council

and subsequently five by English Heritage. Mr Burweila only carried

out some work specified in two of the notices. As a result, English

Heritage, on behalf of the secretary of state, completed the works

contained in four of the remaining five notices at a cost of some

£300,000.

On 5 October 2001 Mr Burweila was served with a formal Repairs Notice

by the Secretary of State. This notice made it clear that lack of

action could lead to compulsory acquisition. However, Mr Burweila

took no steps to repair the property. As a result, on 26 June 2002, a

draft compulsory purchase order was served on Mr Burweila, who sold

the estate on the eve of it being served.

The power of the secretary of state to make a compulsory purchase

order is contained in section 47 of the Planning (Listed Buildings

and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. ACEL, as the new owner, exercised

its right to object to the making of the order at a local public

inquiry. The public Inquiry was held in Thrapston, Northamptonshire

on 24-27 February, 2-5 and 9-12 March 2004 before an independent

Inspector appointed by the Planning Inspectorate. At the inquiry the

Department explained why the secretary of state took the exceptional

step of making the draft Compulsory Purchase Order in June 2002 and

why she believed that it was still necessary to proceed with the

compulsory purchase of the Apethorpe estate. The department was

supported by expert witnesses from English Heritage and others.

The power to make a compulsory purchase order is used in exceptional

circumstances by the secretary of state, this being only the second

occasion. The powers are used more frequently by local authorities

on listed properties in their areas and the secretary of state's role

in those circumstances is to decide whether to confirm their orders.

The secretary of state's sole objective throughout these proceedings

has been to ensure that reasonable steps are being taken for the

proper preservation of Apethorpe Hall and the other listed buildings

on the Apethorpe estate.

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