Press Release from the Wavertree Society, 3rd July 2000
THE SAD SAGA OF SANDOWN HALL:
The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions - John Prescott - has given the go-ahead for the demolition of Sandown Hall, a Grade 2 Listed Building in Olive Lane, Wavertree, Liverpool. The Secretary of State's consent for demolition is subject only to a legal agreement securing the salvage of some components of the building: the tripartite windows on the side elevations and the portico, the pediment and cornice on the south front.
Standing on the high ground of Olive Mount, three miles east of the river Mersey, Sandown Hall was built in about 1810 for Willis Earle, a wealthy coal merchant, and was later the home of Hugh Hornby, a 'Russia merchant' who was once Mayor of Liverpool. From 1930 onwards Sandown Hall served as Crawfords Biscuits staff sports and social club.
In 1990 the Hall and grounds were purchased for £700,000 by Mr George Downey, who just over two years later sold off most of the land for housebuilding, Wainhomes paying him £850,000 for the former playing fields to the north. In August 1994 Mr Downey and his partners Len Noble and Paula Appleton applied for Listed Building Consent to demolish the building, a scheme for its conversion to a nursing home having come to nothing. The Hall was at this time in good condition, and protected by round-the-clock security, but at the Wavertree Society's Annual General Meeting in October 1994 Mr Downey announced his intention of withdrawing security. "No doubt the Hall will then be vandalised", he said . In March 1995 the Labour-controlled Development Control Sub-Committee of Liverpool City Council voted to grant listed building consent for demolition, on the grounds that a new 'nursing village' development on the site would create jobs. This vote was taken contrary to the Planning Officer's recommendation, and the result was a Public Inquiry held in January 1996 when the arguments for and against demolition were heard.
In July-August 1995 the building had been severely damaged, as a result of what the Inspector described as "some force … applied to the south wall which caused serious structural instability" . The Inspector recommended that listed building consent for demolition should be refused, and this recommendation was supported by the Secretary of State. The Inspector said that: "to allow demolition on cost and viability grounds alone could … suggest acquiescence with owners who, for whatever reasons, have allowed a building to fall into such a dilapidated state" .
Then in September 1997 Mr Downey and partners submitted a second application for listed building consent. By this time the building had been severely damaged by fire - described in the press at the time as "a professional job"  - and the Development Control Sub-Committee again voted in favour of demolition. This time the Council's Planning Officer supported this course of action, arguing that "the current owners were instrumental in the building's demise but the proper way to demonstrate that such action does not pay is to pursue a criminal prosecution rather than to withhold approval to demolish, which would disregard the building's current condition and economic realities" .
At the subsequent Public Inquiry, the Wavertree Society reiterated its objection to demolition, arguing that the condition of the building was a direct result of the owners' neglect and there was no evidence of a realistic price ever having been sought. Repairs had been costed at over £1.2 million, but the owners had been offered over £400,000 for the cleared site of the Hall, so it was very unlikely that they would voluntarily part with the building. They had shown no interest in an offer from the Heritage Trust for the North West to take it off their hands with a view to restoration.