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Community service and fines for property developer’s ‘reckless vandalism’ of outstanding Cheshire manor house 

4 December 2018

A property developer, who carried out unauthorised demolition and works on a Grade II* listed building, must carry out 250 hours of community service and pay fines and court costs, following successful prosecution by Cheshire East Council.

Laurence Daw, of property development company Cheshire Estates, pleaded guilty (at a previous hearing) to 15 offences under the 1990 Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act and three offences under the 1984 Building Act after carrying out extensive works at Aston Park House, Budworth Road, near Northwich.

As well as the unpaid community work, he was fined a total of £2,250 for the three offences under the Building Act and ordered to pay £65,000 costs plus a £85 victim surcharge when he appeared before South Cheshire Magistrates in Crewe on Friday (30 November).

Daw runs a string of property companies, mostly registered to an address in Kent, but gave addresses in Knutsford and Burnley to the court and was previously living in a mobile home at Aston Park House.

The property, in Aston by Budworth, is described in records as a Queen Anne country house with its origins recorded in the Domesday Book. It is one of 2,647 listed buildings in the borough, of which only 181 are categorised as Grade II* and was once part of the Arley Estate, one of the county’s outstanding visitor attractions.

The star rating indicates the building is of particular importance and of more than special interest. Less than six per cent of listed buildings in the country are Grade II*. 

Aston Park Unauthorised Works

 The offences under the Listed Building Act, included the unauthorised demolition of a two-storey historic cheese room and tradesman’s entrance, the removal of sash windows, gable coping stones, guttering, lime mortar pointing, part of a staircase, floor tiles, door frames, window linings and architraves, ceilings and soffits, an external boundary wall and the use of insulation spray foam on the fabric of the building.

Notices have been served for the work to be rectified but some aspects of the historic fabric of the building have been permanently lost.

Councillor Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration, said: “Mr Daw’s actions with this property amounted to reckless vandalism and I want to thank the council officers, who have worked with Historic England and other experts, for their diligence and commitment in bringing this case to court and achieving this result."

Councillor Paul Findlow, cabinet member for corporate policy and legal services, said: "This is another example of our team of professional legal and planning enforcement officers having the knowledge and experience to pursue these complex cases with confidence. 

“The council continues to work to ensure that the significant damage which has been caused to this very important historic asset is remediated in accordance with the listed building enforcement notices it has issued.”

Charles Smith, Historic England’s north-west principal adviser for heritage at risk, said: “Our built heritage makes a positive cultural, social and environment contribution to the nation.  It is, however, a fragile resource.

“We will continue to work closely with Cheshire East Council to rectify as much of the damage as possible. We hope that this sad episode will remind other owners of the need to treat listed buildings with respect and care.”