Stevenage council powerless to save 350-year-old cottage from controversial demolition

The Cottage in Fishers Green in set to be demolished. CREDIT: Juliet Walters.

The Cottage in Fishers Green in set to be demolished. CREDIT: Juliet Walters. - Credit: Archant

Planning permission to demolish a 350-year-old cottage has been granted, despite fierce objections from people concerned a building of historical significance will be lost.

Stevenage Borough Council has granted permission for the demolition of The Cottage in Stevenage’s Fishers Green, just five weeks after refusing permission for the property to be torn down to make way for four new houses.

The original plans received 170 formal objections and the council rejected the application as it would have resulted “in the loss of an historic property to the detriment of the character and visual amenities of the area, and the benefit of the residential development would not compensate”.

But Craig Scudder, who bought The Cottage in February last year, immediately submitted plans solely to demolish the property.

It is not a listed building, and constraints in planning law mean the council could only consider the method of demolition in making its decision – despite Mr Scudder citing plans to redevelop the site at a later date.

Pete and Juliet Simpson, who live at a neighbouring property, said: “We object to the demolition as it will irreparably remove a key piece of Stevenage’s history.

“The cottage is one of only a handful of remaining original dwellings in Stevenage and, of the three remaining 1½-storey 17th-century cottages, it is the only remaining example which has not had its frontage completely obscured.”

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But the council officer’s report said: “While the many comments raised objecting to the application are noted and understood, the remit for assessing the application does not include an assessment unrelated to the method of demolition or site restoration. Legal advice has confirmed this would be unlawful.”

Permission for the demolition has therefore been granted and Mr Scudder intends to raze The Cottage to the ground by October 12.

He said: “There has been a lot of uninformed local noise about the property.

“Vast portions of the cottage are not original and it has been deemed unworthy of listing. There is absolutely no basis for keeping it. It is totally unsuited for modern living and impossible to remodel.”

The borough council is seeking legal advice on a last-ditch attempt to protect the building.

Melanie Crawford-Trotman, whose mother lived in the home for 45 years, said: “The proposed demolition of this beautiful cottage has provoked a huge public outcry, in that more of the history of Stevenage will be lost as well as a potentially beautiful home.

“There is a huge surge of public feeling that The Cottage - with its rich history of being a mission hall, a pub, three cottages and a loved and lovely home for at least 45 years - should not be demolished.

“It is an integral part of Fishers Green, situated directly opposite the green itself.

“At point of sale the gardens and apple orchard were lovely, and the house immaculate and full of charm, with original beams and inglenooks, open brickwork and a brick floor in the kitchen.

“We don’t know in what state the house is internally now, but the previously cherished garden has seemingly been wrecked, at best neglected.

“There remains much anger and upset from the family who owned The Cottage previously, the local community and beyond.

“It appears to make nonsense of planning committees and their decisions if a developer is refused planning permission to demolish and build, but then can be given permission to demolish.

“There is still time to save The Cottage and restore it to its former state, for another owner to love.

“A garden can be recreated, but once a 17th century building has gone it has gone forever, taking a part of history with it. This is both a tragedy and travesty and amounts to vandalism.”