Councillors voted last night (Wednesday) to begin prosecution proceedings against the owner of a Grade II-listed building that was partially demolished without permission.

The Comet: The Old Smithy as it originally stoodThe Old Smithy as it originally stood (Image: Archant)

A section of the Old Smithy, a 17th century Grade II-listed building in Hertford Road, Stevenage, was demolished in October last year without planning permission.

An application to connect the Old Smithy to the outbuilding – known as the Forge – was approved in July but, instead of the planned extension, the outbuilding was demolished.

Last night members of Stevenage Borough Council’s (SBC) planning committee instigated prosecution proceedings against the owner Paul Garner.

In a statement to SBC, Mr Garner said: “I know that to claim ignorance is not a defence – I am not claiming ignorance. I worked with the architect to hire a reputable building company who I was told had appropriate experience dealing with listed buildings.

“I was not on-site at the time of the demolition. This has been a passion project for both my wife and I. We would not want to destroy something so close to our home of over 15 years. The purpose of these works was to restore the building for future use.

“The last three months have been among the most stressful of my life and the worst part is that, after paying for legal costs, it is unlikely the work will ever be completed.”

A council report attached to last night’s agenda read: “It is evident that both the owner and builder were involved in the demolition of the building at the site. It is clear from the investigations undertaken that both were on site the day demolition took place.

“There is confusion between them as to who was in charge of project managing the development and that not everyone was aware of the heritage status and importance of the building.”

SBC must now draft a summonses for Mr Garner before proceeding to take legal action in court.