£35,000 bill for Stevenage comedy writer who ordered demolition of Grade II-listed building

The Old Smithy as it originally stood

The Old Smithy as it originally stood - Credit: Archant

A Stevenage man who illegally demolished a Grade-II listed building has been ordered to pay more than £35,000 today.

Paul Garner. Credit: YouTube

Paul Garner. Credit: YouTube - Credit: Archant

Paul Garner was ordered to pay a £10,000 fine and court costs of £25,000 after the Old Smithy outbuilding which backs on to his home in Hertford Road was knocked down without permission.

The freelance writer – who has worked on the satirical show Brass Eye, The 11 O’Clock Show and has written for comedian Jimmy Carr – will also have to pay a victim surcharge of £120.

Garner’s sentencing at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court follows a two-day trial last month when he was convicted of the offence, which took place in October 2013.

The 46-year-old had been given planning permission in July of that year by Stevenage Borough Council to connect the historic building with his cottage.

The Old Smithy - Hugh Madgin

The Old Smithy - Hugh Madgin - Credit: Archant

The building, some of which dates back to the 17th century, was one of the first staging posts built on the main London to Peterborough coach route and was also used as a sweet shop in the Second World War.

In court Garner claimed he had always wanted to keep the building – also known as the Forge – but had left the practicality of the works to architect Mark Grainger and builder Jeff Finch.

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Finch, of Vaughan Road in Stotfold, pleaded guilty to the charge but claimed he thought the building was de-listed as Garner had asked him to take it down.

He was ordered to pay £3,620 by magistrate David Knight who said: “You pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and we have taken that into consideration.

The Old Smithy in Hertford Road which has been knocked down by mistake

The Old Smithy in Hertford Road which has been knocked down by mistake - Credit: Archant

“But we will be fining you because you were aware it was a listed building and should have questioned vigorously why it was no longer a problem to be demolished.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but you should have questioned that.”

Speaking to reporters outside the court, Finch said: “I think it was quite fair, a good decision at the end of the day.”

He added: “Next time I will do my own [background] work.”

Before the sentencing was read out, Garner’s lawyer David Lamming suggested the money could be better spent doing up the building as it would be in the ‘public interest’ to improve the appearance of the area.

Garner did not comment afterwards.