Wentworth house's demolition 'jeopardises national heritage'

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The Independent Online

To admirers of modernist design, the house called Greenside was an iconic example of the stylish use of concrete and glass. But to David Beadle, it was an expensive burden, an eyesore that put golfers at Wentworth off their swing.

To admirers of modernist design, the house called Greenside was an iconic example of the stylish use of concrete and glass. But to David Beadle, it was an expensive burden, an eyesore that put golfers at Wentworth off their swing.

Faced with mounting repairs bills and arguing he had the required permission, Mr Beadle knocked it down last November.

This demolition, a public inquiry was told yesterday, caused "a national and international outcry" and, if allowed to go unchallenged, would undermine the entire planning system.

The inquiry is being held into the decision by Runnymede council to grant permission to Mr Beadle to knock down Greenside, which was a grade-II listed building on the Wentworth Estate in Surrey, close to the 17th green. Greenside was designed and built in 1937 by the avant-garde architects Connell Ward and Lucas. It was one of only eight of its type.

The council argues that its decision to grant permission to knock it down reflected the provisions of the Human Rights Acts that an individual has a right to do what they please with their possessions.

Opening the inquiry, Richard Harwood, for English Heritage, said: "This is not simply a debate about protecting modernist architecture. It is a debate about whether to have a planning system." He added: "If the events that led to this inquiry go unchallenged, then what is an historic building today may be a greenfield housing site tomorrow or a supermarket next week."

The inquiry heard that Mr Beadle, 52, a businessman, had bought the house for £400,000 in 1987; it was listed in 1988. In April 2000, he offered the house for sale for £2m. At one point he was offered £1.8m but after a survey discovered that it needed major repairs, the sale collapsed. About £664,000 was needed to bring it up to acceptable standards, a cost due in part to the fact that plumbing and wiring were buried in the concrete.

The council gave him consent to demolish it, despite opposition from English Heritage, and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister chose not to intervene. However, the council then agreed to reconsider the application after a legal challenge by the Twentieth Century Society. Last year, the council again gave consent for demolition, subject to government approval. But it was demolished before the matter could be considered. In March this year, the decision was called in by John Prescott's office, which led to the inquiry. If the inquiry finds against the council, Mr Beadle could be prosecuted by English Heritage.

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