Jail Risk Over Demolished Listed Building
for property developer if he does not rebuild.
The council is seeking a High Court injunction requiring Rajiv Laxman to immediately begin rebuilding the Grade II Listed former caretaker's cottage at Brandlehow School.
In November 2007, he was ordered by magistrates to pay £11,000 for tearing down the building without consent. Mr Laxman was then issued with a formal notice under the Town and Country Planning Act requiring him to rebuild the cottage. When he failed to comply with the notice, he was taken to court for a second time in March 2008 and ordered to pay a further £13,000.
Since then he has continued to flout the notice, done no rebuilding work nor acted to protect the fabric of the building from the elements. As a result the council has now lodged papers with the High Court seeking an injunction that would require him to commence the rebuilding work immediately.
Failure to comply with the injunction could be treated as contempt of court and could lead to Mr Laxman being jailed and/or fined an unlimited amount. Council leader Edward Lister said:
"If he thinks he can just leave the building to slowly rot away or is gambling that as a planning authority we will simply give up on this case then he is very much mistaken. We are now pursuing this case in the High Court and if we obtain an injunction and he fails to comply with it, then we will not hesitate to bring him back to court for contempt."
The cottage was constructed using innovative building methods for the time, using a pre-cast reinforced concrete frame and was given listed building status in 1993- it was formerly part of Brandlehow School until it was declared surplus to the school's needs in 2001. Brandlehow was built in 1952 and is one of only three schools in London to have been designed by controversial architect Erno Goldfinger - best known for his iconic Trellick Tower in Paddington.
Mr Laxman, who is sole director of Croydon-based property development firm Abrus Ltd, applied for permission to demolish the cottage in 2002 but was refused. He took the case to appeal but a Government planning inspector backed the council's decision to say no. However in January last year he began to demolish the cottage. Planning officers immediately rushed to the site and ordered all work to cease. Mr Laxman was contacted and told to stop any further demolition work. He was also warned that unauthorised demolition was a criminal offence and that the council would require the building to be restored.
However, when the officers returned to the site two days later it was clear that more of the building had been knocked down, including its precious roof, using a mechanical digger. Since then no further work has been carried out and the site is now totally overgrown with vegetation. It is also a major eyesore for people living in this part of Putney.
June 27, 2008