From the Wavertree Society's Newsletter 121 (October 1998):

SANDOWN HALL: the saga continues

The Public Inquiry into the proposed demolition of Sandown Hall - the second such Inquiry in the space of less than three years - opened on 13 October at the Municipal Annexe in Dale Street, and ended with a site visit on 15 October. If the owners of the building arrived expecting a walkover, then they must have left feeling very disappointed indeed.

The Inspector, Mr Neil Holt - an architect and town planner - will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for the Environment, based on the evidence presented to him at the Inquiry. He began by setting out his 'shopping list' of the information he would need from the owners. Exactly how had the condition of the building changed since 1996? Exactly what attempts had been made to market the building? Exactly how much consideration had been given to salvaging the building's façade, as part of an 'alternative' redevelopment scheme? How much would this cost, and could it not be paid for by the sale of the site? When the owners' solicitor replied that they could not immediately provide this information, the Inspector simply told them that they would have to, before the end of the Inquiry.

Two of the Hall's owners - Mr Downey and Mrs Appleton - sat stony-faced, at the back of the room, throughout. Neither of them gave evidence to the Inspector. The third partner - Mr Noble - was said by their solicitor to have answers to some of the Inspector's questions: but his fleeting visits to the Inquiry room were interrupted by his mobile phone before he had a chance to speak. The arguments for demolition were presented by just two witnesses: Mr Pickles, the architect, whose evidence in 1996 failed to impress the previous Inspector, and Mr Latham, a structural engineer, who had not seen Sandown Hall prior to July 1998 and who was clearly unaware of the building's recent history (admitting under cross-examination that he assumed the current state of the building was the outcome of a long period of natural decay).

The City Council had voted in favour of demolition: the main problem being that it does not have a budget for purchasing or renovating historic buildings. It was clear, however, that the Council's officers would like to save Sandown Hall, if at all possible:  Also, the Council is still proposing to prosecute the owners for having carried out partial demolition - basically removing the slates from the roof - in 1995 without first obtaining listed building consent.

Continued ...

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