Manor is restored at public expense: Grants of pounds 227,000 paid under loophole

AN UNEMPLOYED engineer has renovated a country house at huge public expense by seizing on a loophole in regulations designed to make substandard housing habitable.

Trevor Rawden, 27, bought the near-derelict 16th-century Beaufoe Manor, near Waddington, Lincolnshire, for pounds 40,000 two years ago, when it had been derelict for 10 years. When it is completed early next year, he will have received at least pounds 227,000 in grants.

Mr Rawden sold his former home in Lincolnshire and moved in temporarily with in-laws, having estimated the cost of repairs at pounds 50,000. He planned to do much of the work himself but had a car accident and was unable to do so.

He applied to North Kesteven district council to see if any grants were available after gaining an estimate of pounds 115,598. Officials told Mr Rawden that as he was receiving income support, he could have a house improvement grant for the full cost of making his house habitable.

The value of an applicant's 'principal residence', and savings up to pounds 8,000, do not stop entitlement to income support, the Department of Social Security confirmed last night.

The grant was agreed in February. When the roof was removed, it was found that further essential repairs were needed to the Grade II listed building. Mr Rawden went back to the council and asked for another pounds 112,000. They were horified, having a budget of only pounds 600,000 for their whole area for the year, but found that once they had started on a scheme, they had to go on.

Keith Lamond, the council's head of environmental services, said the only alternatives were demolition - impossible with a listed building - or rehousing Mr Rawden and his family. The scheme's rules meant the council had to do whichever was cheapest over the next 30 years, and renovation was cheaper than re-housing.

The loophole has now been closed, a Department of the Environment spokesman said. From 1 April there has been a pounds 50,000 cap on all new schemes approved and the ceiling is likely to be cut further.

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