Council £43,000 out of pocket after court case

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COUNCIL Tax payers will meet a £43,000 bill because a firm charged with damaging a listed building has ceased trading.

Springbarn Develop-ments, based in Newmarket, had pleaded guilty to carrying out unauthorised work on The Stables, at Gulling Green, near Brockley and was fined £5,000 with £10,000 costs awarded to St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which brought the prosecution.

But in passing sentence at Ipswich Crown Court on Monday, Judge Peter Thompson said: “I’m well aware that none of it will be recoverable.”

St Edmundsbury Borough Council spent £35,000 on investigating and a further £8,000 in legal fees in connection with the case. But the court heard that Springbarn Developments, which two years ago was turning over £1 million a year, has gone into liquidation owing far more than the value of its assets.

Hugh Rowlands, prosecuting, said the former cow shed was a ‘rare survivor’ among buildings of its kind and while dating from around 1800 included Medieval and Tudor timbers from a farmhouse that once stood on the site.

When listed building consent was granted by the council for the conversion, it was on condition that as much of the existing structure as possible would be retained and an engineer’s report said that most could be saved. But council officers visiting the site in November 2009 found a ‘fairly drastic’ reconstruction,

Ancient timbers had been removed, disposed of and replaced with new wood using joints not in keeping with the age of the structure. In the bottom half of the building just four original timbers remained.

Directors of Springbarn Developments told council officers they were following architect’s instructions.

Judge Thompson, who praised the council for the way they had investigated the breach, said: “It is extremely disappointing to find that all those efforts in this case turned out to be futile.

“The building was transformed in a way it never should have been.”