£4m damage to Hitchin Town Hall could be a ‘criminal offence’

Work that has been carried out at Hitchin Town Hall

Work that has been carried out at Hitchin Town Hall - Credit: Archant

Restoration work on a multi-million pound project to renovate a listed building could be deemed a ‘criminal offence’ after building consent was not obtained.

Work done on Hitchin Town Hall could be deemed a 'criminal offence'

Work done on Hitchin Town Hall could be deemed a 'criminal offence' - Credit: Archant

Last week the Comet reported how further work on Hitchin Town Hall had been criticised, as a £4.39m renovation of the hall and 14 and 15 Brand Street to turn it into a district museum and community space continues.

The work – carried out by contractors appointed by North Herts District Council (NHDC) – includes pipework in the foyer of the Grade II-listed building, which has not had the necessary approval from English Heritage.

According to the English Heritage website, “listed building consent is required for all works of demolition, alteration or extension to a listed building that affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest”.

The website states: “The requirement applies to all types of works and to all parts of those buildings covered by the listing protection, provided the works affect the character of the building as a building of special interest. It is a criminal offence not to seek consent when it is required.”

The Comet understands that Buttress Architects, the company appointed by NHDC as the project’s architects, is about to apply for retrospective listed building consent through the local authority.

Brent Smith, director of Hitchin Town Hall Ltd – which has been working with NHDC on the project – said: “We were absolutely shocked that listed building consent was not obtained for works which were being drawn up in 2012. It is incompetency at the highest level – these are professionals. I’ve never known anything like it. It is vandalism.”

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NHDC chief executive David Scholes said: “An application has been submitted for listed building consent by the architects Butress to the local planning authority to cover a number of matters that were not covered by the earlier applications. The aspects that are included in the application either cumulatively or individually affect the character or appearance of the listed building. The application will be determined by the council’s planning committee after the necessary consultation.”

Hitchin Historical Society chairman Phil Rowe told the Comet the society was seeking a meeting with Mr Scholes to raise concerns but was awaiting a response.