Inspector visits country house to see 'unacceptable alterations'
A GOVERNMENT inspector has visited a historic country house to see for himself council claims it has been substantially damaged.
Stroud Council argues that historic features have been lost during "unacceptable alterations."
A total of 33 contraventions of listed building rules at Amberley Court, Stroud, were discussed on a site visit during an informal public inquiry into the work.
Government inspector Anthony Davison heard from Stroud District Council officers Jamie Cooper and Kate Russell that the alterations had caused substantial damage to the "important heritage asset".
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The council officials also listed 78 steps needed to restore the 200-year-old house to its former glory.
But experts representing Amberley Court's owner Dr Mark Harrison, said they'd made the case to Mr Davison that the alterations had not caused harm.
The inquiry hearing was opened briefly at the council's Ebley Mill headquarters before it adjourned to Amberley Court.
The house off Theescombe Hill is said to have been the original house on which Beech Wood in the famous Victorian novel John Halifax Gentleman was based.
Its interior had largely maintained a late Regency and early Victorian historic character until Dr Harrison carried out alterations, repairs and refurbishments about which the council received a complaint.
It then took enforcement action, Dr Harrison appealed, and the inquiry was triggered.
"Historic fabric has been lost or in some cases submerged," said a summary of the council's case.
"Certain alterations, ie the installation of wooden panelling on walls ... of halogen spotlights, limed oak architraving and of two panel lined oak doors are repeated often throughout the building.
"The totality of the works has done substantial harm to the listed building," the council said.
But planning consultant Andrew Williams and heritage architect Stephen Levrant, for Dr Harrison, said they'd thoroughly researched the building and its significance.
"My client's case on appeal is that many of the alterations do not cause harm and that listed building consent should be granted for the work," Mr Williams said.
"It is fundamentally incorrect to describe the house as Regency," he said. It was the "eclecticism and degrees of variation" at Amberley Court which formed its character and significance. That has been misinterpreted or even ignored by the council ... many of the steps required to remedy the alleged breaches also exceed what is necessary under the enforcement procedure rules," he said.
However both Dr Harrison and the council officers were in accord over many elements and both parties continued to work together, said Mr Williams.