Crest Nicholson has been pulled up for a planning breach at Brightwell House, the Grade II listed building at the heart of Farnham’s Brightwells Yard development.
Waverley Borough Council’s enforcement team investigated concerns raised by Rowledge architect Mark Westcott over the restoration of the 230-year-old building.
It found construction of Brightwell House's western bay roof “could constitute a material breach of planning permission”, as it differs from the approved Listed Building Consent drawings.
Crest, Waverley’s development partner at Brightwells, has promised to “rectify this oversight”, with remedial works starting this week.
However, Mr Westcott said he is “gravely concerned” by Waverley’s enforcement action, saying several of his complaints had been brushed aside.
He has called on the council to appoint an external consultant to review the damage, and for Crest Nicholson to be prosecuted if it is found to have undertaken works to Brightwell House without prior consent.
In a statement, Waverley dismissed the majority of Mr Westcott's concerns over the restoration of Brightwell House and other buildings in its Brightwells Yard development – saying these “are still under construction” and “no evaluation can be made as to whether or not the works conform to the approved plans”.
But borough enforcement officers did find evidence of one breach, the western bay roof, and Crest has vowed to “rectify this as a matter of urgency”.
Waverley portfolio holder for enforcement, operations and Brightwells, Councillor Andy MacLeod, said: “Brightwell House is one of Farnham’s important heritage assets and we are very keen to see it restored and brought back into use.
"This is a significant task, as the building was in a very poor state, having been disused for many years and, unfortunately, vandalised by squatters on a number of occasions.”
The Herald was shown evidence that squatters had gained entry to Brightwell House around ten years ago, with Waverley accused at the time of not securing the building and attached theatre.
Cllr MacLeod, who before being elected as the Farnham Residents councillor for Moor Park was one of five protesters who took Waverley to the High Court in 2017 seeking to block revisions to the Brightwells scheme, said: “Our officers are working with Crest Nicholson to ensure it meets the conditions of the Listed Building Consent and we look forward to the building becoming a fantastic home to a tenant later this year.”
A spokesperson from Crest Nicholson said the developer is “very pleased to have been entrusted with the restoration of Brightwell House” and added it is “determined to ensure these works are completed to the highest possible standard and as sympathetically as possible”.
On the planning breach, they added: “We are taking immediate action alongside Waverley’s heritage team to rectify this oversight. Works will begin this week and will be complete by the end of April.”
But Mr Westcott, who initially raised concerns over Brightwell House’s restoration in December, believes the council should not let Crest off the hook.
He said: “The council should show its enforcement teeth and insist both boy window roofs – not just the western one – as well as the house’s chimney stacks are removed and reinstated based on the historical evidence I have supplied.”
Mr Westcott added Waverley or Crest are yet to explain why the Regency-era house’s Georgian sash windows and French doors have been “ripped out”.
He added if Crest is guilty of a planning breach at a Grade II-listed house, “Waverley should prosecute Crest for undertaking the works without prior consent”. And pointing the finger of blame at Waverley, he asked: “Where was the oversight, the monitoring of the works, by Waverley? It should have never been allowed to get to this stage.”
On the next steps, he said: “Waverley should appoint external consultants – architects, not just a surveyor – to solve this problem. If there is a risk of prosecution, the council should not be left to investigate its own development partner.”