In Newsletter 136 (May 2001) we reported that, when Sandown Hall in Wavertree was demolished, the sandstone blocks and other materials were acquired by 'a third party (identity as yet undisclosed)' with a view to incorporating them in the façade of a new house 'somewhere in the North West'. Now, nearly two years on, we are able to give more details.
David Stagg, a businessman living in Macclesfield, is proposing to spend £1.2 million rebuilding the Hall ('exactly as it was in 1820', though using modern techniques like a steel frame and concrete floors) on a 25-acre site in Bollington Lane, Nether Alderley, in the Cheshire stockbroker belt. Mr Stagg runs a Property Management company with 6 offices in the South Manchester area, but his intention is that the new Sandown Hall will be his own, 11,000 sq.ft, 'private and principal place of residence' where he will raise his family.
Mr Stagg has acquired the salvaged bricks and sandstone blocks (shrink-wrapped and numbered) from John Griffiths of Grappenhall, the man who originally purchased them from the demolition site. The two men have been friends for some time, and Mr Griffiths - a contractor specialising in barn conversions and similar projects - is likely to be involved in the rebuilding. A stone mason will re-create the sandstone elements (including the pillars and tripartite window) which were either damaged beyond repair or retained alongside the original site in Wavertree when the Hall was demolished.
Mr Stagg has engaged an architect - Alan Higgins - and landscape architects - Barnes Walker - to draw up the detailed plans. His one major problem is that the site is in the Green Belt, and obtaining planning permission (from Macclesfield Borough Council) will therefore not be easy. His planning consultants will be relying on the clause in PPG7 (the government's Planning Policy Guidance Note on 'The Countryside') which states that 'an isolated new house … may … exceptionally be justified if it is clearly of the highest quality, is truly outstanding in terms of its architecture and landscape design, and would significantly enhance its immediate setting and wider surroundings'. This 'outstanding quality' clause in PPG7 has never been tested before in relation to a rebuilding - rather than an architect designed new building.
In the few weeks since he completed the purchase of the new site, Mr Stagg has been contacting the bodies who campaigned to save Sandown Hall from demolition in the 1990s, and who might therefore be willing to back his planning application: the Georgian Group, the Ancient Monuments Society, English Heritage - and the Wavertree Society. He attended our Committee meeting on 3rd April, and as a result of what we heard we have written to him expressing our support, subject to the views of local residents and the local civic society being sought and taken into account.
Mr Stagg anticipates that, if all goes well, planning permission will be granted within six months, and the building work will take a further 18 months to complete. He says that the rebuilt Hall will be visible both from Bollington Lane and from the new A34 bypass road - and that our Society will be welcome to visit the project both during the rebuilding and upon its completion.
So watch this (and that) space!