Developers should have to rebuild former hall says MP

Developers should have to rebuild former hall says MP

by Henry James (June 2022)

WEST Lancashire Borough Council is being called on by MP Rosie Cooper to  push  for a criminal conviction and potentially a prison sentence for the developers who demolished the former Skelmersdale Hall building.

Residents were shocked to see workmen flatten  the building on Saturday, May 7.

It came two months after the Grade II listed building had been severely damaged in a fire, with arsonists believed to be behind the blaze.

The historic building on Ashurst Road, dates back to 1712, and was most recently the Old Toby Pub.

Immediately following the demolition, the West Lancashire MP wrote to Historic England, who have now confirmed that they had been informed of the ‘seemingly unlawful’ demolition only after it had happened and have offered their advice to the council on enforcement.

This advice included clarification that a prison sentence would not be excluded.

Just weeks after the fire plans to build 60 apartments for extra-care living accommodation at the location by Cheshire-based applicant SEP Construction Services Ltd were withdrawn.

At the time, the council called the demolition “unauthorised” and stated legal advice was being obtained.

SEP Construction Services Ltd has applied for retrospective Listed Building Consent to demolish the “Grade II listed Old Toby Inn to chamber level following the fire to make the building safe.”

Cllr Gareth Dowling has asked for the application to be called in and wants it discussed at the borough council’s Planning Committee.

Included in the retrospective application is a report from consulting engineers Betts Associates, who visited the site on March 7 and recommended that the inside of the listed building be secured to prevent access as it was “very dangerous.”

Ms Cooper is now urging the borough council to push for enforcement action, and that the developers be charged and if convicted, receive the strongest punishments possible for not following the legal process.

Ms Cooper said: “The developers have ignored the laws in place to protect historically important buildings like the Toby.

“They have taken from us a building that Historic England say had ‘nationally important architectural and historic value’. They now must face the consequences of these actions.

“We cannot allow this to go unpunished, the council need to take every step to right this wrong.

“The building must be rebuilt, and those responsible need to be prosecuted for the criminal damage they caused.

“The courts must seriously consider whether a prison sentence is necessary.”

Grimster Planning Ltd, who have been acting as the agents for SEP Construction Services Ltd, were contacted for comment.

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