It is pleasing for us to report the result of the Planning Inquiry into the proposed demolition of Sandown Hall. On 2nd December the Secretary of State for the Environment announced his decision to refuse listed building consent for demolition.
The inspector's conclusions mirrored the evidence we gave to the Inquiry. Together with the other objectors we were able to satisfy the inspector on the many and various issues regarding Sandown Hall. We stressed the historical and architectural importance of the hall. The importance of the setting in Wavertree of the hall. The effect of the loss such a rare local building would have on Wavertree and Liverpool. The effect that lack of security had on the condition of the hall.
We pointed out that the councillors who voted for demolition went against not only their own experts and officials, but also went against government guidelines specifically set down to protect important listed buildings. We believe the council spent over twenty thousand pounds in recruiting an outside consultant to put their case. The inspector still agreed with the objectors' views. One wonders if our money could be better spent, than in putting forward a case that brought such defeat and criticism.
Here are some of the inspector's conclusions:
"… evidence conclusively indicates that the building is a fine early example of the Greek Revival style."
"It is important in terms of its architectural and historic interest both as a mansion and as part of a group, and it remains a focal point for the community"
"I am not convinced that every possible effort has been made to find an alternative use, and it cannot be said that 'exhaustive and real efforts to retain the building in use' were made."
"For commercial reasons a definite decision not to provide security was made. The building war neglected from that date, and the neglect led to an escalation of severe damage."
"The present condition is largely due to vandalism as well as the owners having neither the finance not the will to preserve the hall."
Regarding the council's decision to allow demolition he states:
"I do not consider that the advice in PPGI5 [the government guidelines] had been fully considered by the members. The officer recommendation was clear: that there were insufficient justifiable reasons to allow demolition."
"Financial hardship cannot be a determining criterion in support of demolition and it is not appropriate to bail unfortunate and foolish developers out of situations of their own making."
On the future of the hall, we believe the best outcome would be for a Building Preservation Trust to take over the hall, obtain public money and convert the hall into a business training/conference/social centre. This could link with the many firms now at the Wavertree Technology Park nearby. Whilst the Wavertree Society has neither the resources nor the manpower to run a Building Preservation Trust, we would undoubtedly give as much help as we could to anyone setting up such a Trust.
Enormous thanks must go to committee member Mike Chitty who spearheaded our fight to save the hall from demolition. The work Mike put in during the inquiry was prodigious. Without this, and his professional approach, the outcome could have been different.
There are still considerable problems over the future of the building. Not least, how long can it remain in its present condition?