Press Release from the Wavertree Society, 3rd July 2000
Now - more that 18 months after the close of the second Public Inquiry - the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions has announced his decision to grant listed building consent for demolition. His decision letter, dated 29th June 2000, states that "there appears to be no realistic prospect of restoring the building without the use by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport of his reserve powers under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 … [but] there is no prospect of those reserve powers being used in this instance. Therefore, despite the fact that the Secretary of State is not convinced that the Hall was offered for sale at a realistic value reflecting the building's condition, in all the circumstances it is agreed, with considerable reluctance, that the right way forward would be to allow the Hall to be demolished." .
The Secretary of State is critical both of the owners and of Liverpool City Council. The Secretary of State's decision letter to the owners' solicitors states that "the view is taken that the Hall may have been saved and a new use found for it had your clients shown greater commitment to the future of the Hall and the City Council shown greater vigilance and commitment to use the powers available to them to at least protect the hall to prevent its deterioration". .
The Inspector's report - on which the Secretary of State's decision was based - was dated 30th November 1998, and the delay in announcing a decision seems to have been due to a wrangle between the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (which is clearly worried about the precedent which has now been set) and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (which would have had to find the money needed to restore the building).
Mike Chitty, Conservation and Local History Secretary of the Wavertree Society, gave evidence at both Public Inquiries. He said today:
"It has been very sad to see Sandown Hall deteriorate so rapidly, while the authorities have simply stood by and procrastinated. The owners should have been persuaded to plough some of their profits from the sale of the land into the refurbishment of the Hall. They should have been forced to keep it secure. They should also have been helped to find a viable new use for the building. Instead of that, everyone seems to have washed their hands of Sandown Hall on the assumption that, sooner or later, it would have to be pulled down.
"Big question marks now surround the future of other listed buildings - not just in Liverpool, but throughout the country - whose owners see value in the site rather than the structure. The Government may feel that having to wait six years for demolition approval is a sufficient deterrent: but it is local residents, unfortunately, who have to live with the decaying shells on their doorsteps. Local councils should be encouraged to serve repairs notices on reluctant owners at an early stage, rather than wait until the costs have got out of hand.
"Meanwhile, we can only hope that an appropriate new home will be found for the salvaged fragments of the building, and that they will serve as a permanent reminder of what has been lost by the people of Wavertree rather than of what has been gained by the owners of Sandown Hall".
Sources of quotes:  Public Inquiry document WS23, October 1998.  Inspector's Report, 11 April 1996, para.12.82.  Inspector's Report, 11 April 1996, para.12.94.  Liverpool Echo, 24 March 1997, page 2.  Inspector's Report, 30 November 1998, para.6.12.  GONW letter to Lewis Denton 29 June 2000, para.14.  GONW letter to Lewis Denton 29 June 2000, para.15.