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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 09/01/2007
Undershaw, Portsmouth Road, Hindhead




[Wards Affected: Haslemere Critchmere and Shottermill]

Note pursuant to Section 100B(5) of the Local Government Act 1972

The annexe and oral update to this report contain exempt information by virtue of which the public is likely to be excluded during the item to which the update relates, as specified in Paragraph 5 of the revised Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, namely:-
Summary and purpose:

Undershaw is a Grade II Listed Building originally the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was for many years used as a hotel, but has recently become vacant and has rapidly fallen into a very poor state of repair. An Urgent Works Notice (UWN) has been served on the owner requiring measures to arrest damage and decay. This report is to inform members of the steps that have been taken and to alert them to the consequences of this action.

E-Government implications:

There are no significant implications.

Environmental Implications:

Protection of a grade II listed building and tourism resource.

Social / community Implications:

Protection of a grade II listed building and tourism resource.

Resource and legal implications:

The Council has sought to work positively with the owner and at the Development Management Committee B held in December 2006 a report set out possible use options that could be explored.

If the owner does not comply with the UWN, it is open to the Council to undertake the specified works itself and to reclaim the costs from the owner.

The Urgent Works Notice was served as a legal notice on the owner under provisions of Sections 54 and 55 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. There may be further legal process in seeking to recover the costs.


1. Undershaw was built in 1893 for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is sited to command the view down a secluded valley towards the South Downs. Though not the most handsome of Victorian Houses, it is a good example of the intellectual and art homes that sprang up in Haslemere during this period. It was also expensively fitted out, including fine door furniture and heraldic stained glass windows relating to Conan Doyle’s family and that of his wife.

2. The building is listed grade II, but the Victorian Society has requested English Heritage to consider upgrading the building. The English Heritage report is currently with the appropriate government minister who, it is understood, is considering the matter personally because of its current sensitivity.

3. Since the building became vacant over a year ago, its condition has suffered a steep decline, having been broken into several times, and the roof severely damaged by attempts to remove lead.

4. The building is now owned by a company known as Fossway Ltd. The company is represented, and understood to be owned, by Mr Des Moore.

Recent development proposals

5. Planning permission and listed building consent application were made last year for a scheme to convert the main house into four dwellings, its garage lodge into two dwellings, and construct three detached dwellings in the rear garden.

6. This owner claimed that this scheme would generate funds to repair the building.

7. These application (WA/2006/1872 and 1873) were refused on 21st December 2006 for reasons including the effect on the character of the listed building and its setting, the effect on trees and the loss of tourist accommodation.

8. The owner has also indicated informally that he would be prepared to offer the historic building to a suitable conservation trust if he were allowed to develop the grounds. Officers consider that there is some scope for very modest development to the east alongside the house – but that any extensive development to the rear of the building would seriously compromise the setting of the historic building.

The need for Urgent Works

9. The urgent works are in the best interests of the owner, as they will prevent further deterioration of the building and escalation of future repair costs. Equally, should the Council need to consider a Listed Building Repairs Notice, and consequently Compulsory Purchase, the extent of those repairs would be curtailed. The consideration of a Listed Building Repairs Notice may only arise in the event that no progress is made with the current owner to repair and maintain the building and find a long term appropriate use.

10. Mr Moore, and his architect Chris Atkins (of RDA Architects) been asked at least five times to secure the building and four times to attend to the roof. From time to time the front door has been re-secured, and the garage block has recently been more fully boarded up. However, numerous upper windows of the house remain open, broken or entirely without casements – allowing fairly ready access by vandals, vermin and weather. Even more worryingly, the roof is severely damaged – allowing rainwater to pour straight into the heart of the house. Despite three promises that the roof would be tarpaulined, no weather protection had been installed as at 28th December 2007. It should be mentioned, anyway, that tarpaulins, though a cheaper response, are unlikely to prove adequate protection other than for the very short term for a number of reasons:

The building is now saturated and tarpaulins in direct contact with the roof, without a scaffold support, would prevent air circulation and proper drying out of the underlying structure – thereby promoting decay. Tarpaulins would not throw rainwater clear of the building, and any ponding of water on flat areas would risk seeping between the sheets. It will be difficult to fit tarpaulins up to and around chimney stacks, or support them above chimneys without scaffolding. The tarpaulins are not rigid and are subject to shifting in the wind, so would need to be checked, and probably re-secured, at frequent intervals. Tarpaulins themselves have a value and are liable to theft.

11. In October 2006, Waverley Borough Council commissioned Nye Saunders, architects, to undertake a condition survey of the house, to identify measures for both urgent protection of the house and for its full repair. The Council is in receipt of their initial report describing urgent works. These comprise erecting a scaffolded tin roof over the areas of greatest damage, repairing other areas of minor roof damage, properly boarding windows and taking measures to allow the drying out of the building. The estimated cost is in the region of 64 000 excluding VAT.

12. Additionally, after the first 24 weeks, there would be a continued monthly cost for hire of the scaffold roof of 760 (excl VAT).

The Urgent Works Notice

13. An Urgent Works Notice may be served on the owner of an unoccupied listed building requiring works to protect a building from further deterioration. These include temporary support, protection and security. The works should be the least cost option in the particular circumstances. There is no obligation for the owner to comply – but if he fails then the Council is permitted to enter the site to undertake the works itself. That would initially be at the Council’s expense, though it can seek to recover the costs from the owner. A copy of the delegated report and notice is attached at (Exempt) Annexe 1 for information.

14. The Council sent an Urgent Works Notice, recorded delivery, to the owner on 22nd December 2006 requiring him to undertake the necessary works identified in the Nye Saunders report. The UWN gives the owner until 8 January to undertake the work, or at least satisfy the Local Planning Authority that arrangements have been made for its early implementation.
Enforcement of the Urgent Works Notice

15. The Council, having issued this UWN is not obliged to enforce it fully or at all. However, if it does not do so promptly, it might invalidate the Council’s case, in reclaiming costs, if it were to undertake the works after a long delay. The Council needs therefore to be in a position to commission the works forthwith – in the event that the owner fails to carry out the requirements of the notice. Officers will inspect the building on the 9th January and an oral update will be given to the Committee on the execution of the urgent works, including any further recommendations, which may be in exempt session.

Resource Implications

16. Officers will also report orally to the meeting on the funding of any necessary works and the authorities needed for this.


It is recommended that:

Background Papers (DoPD)

Authorisation Report for issue of Urgent Works Notice for Undershaw
Urgent Works Notice for Undershaw and covering letter


Name: Russell Morris Telephone: 01483 523308

E-mail: rmorris@waverley.gov.uk