Builder fined after demolishing conservation area cottages

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A builder who demolished two cottages in a conservation area without permission has been fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,500.

Alexander Dickson, of AF Dickson Builders, demolished two cottages which lay in the heart of the Twywell Conservation Area while he was carrying out work last summer to convert and restore the buildings.

The demolition work was deemed by officers of the council to cause substantial harm to the character and appearance of the conservation area owing to the historic value of the buildings.

Enforcement action followed, and at the hearing on January 11, Mr Dickson pleaded guilty to the charge.

He was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,500.

In summing up, the chair of Northampton Magistrates Court commented that Mr Dickson should have dealt with the situation more effectively given the number of years’ experience he has had in the construction industry.

The magistrates felt Mr Dickson’s actions were beyond negligent.

Councillor Sylvia Hughes, ward member, said: “These cottages stood next to the village churchyard, in the heart of a newly-designated conservation area so this demolition is a significant lapse in judgment and a great shame for the village of Twywell.

“We felt prosecution proceedings were justified in this instance due to the seriousness of the breaches. This could only reasonably be dealt with in a court of law.

”Mr Dickson was open and transparent throughout our investigations and accepts that he gave no notice to the council and as a result of this failure of procedure he pleaded guilty and accepts that there is no defence available to him as far as the law is concerned.”

The cottages will now be reinstated following approval of planning permission which was granted in December 2012.

East Northamptonshire Council said the works will be monitored by officers to ensure the detailing of the new buildings matches that of the former cottages.

A spokesman for the council added: “The village of Twywell was designated as a conservation area in June 2010.

“The conservation area grants statutory protection on buildings within the area, making it a criminal offence to demolish.

The site of 1-3 Rectory Drive, Twywell, is located in the centre of the conservation area, adjacent to the village churchyard.

“Though derelict, the buildings were noted as making a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the conservation area.”