Historical buildings 'mistakes' made by councils

barn with solar panels
Image caption Bobby Bazalgette is involved in a planning row with Carmarthenshire council

The added pressure of looking after historical buildings is leading to mistakes being made by councils, it has been claimed.

Architectural historian Mark Baker said since heritage body Cadw came under ministerial control 10 years ago, more planning cases are passed to councils.

And he added planning laws and guidance are open to interpretation which can result in wrong decisions being made.

The Welsh government said new guidance will be rolled out.

Mr Baker was responding to a decision by Carmarthenshire council to force a businessman to remove solar panels from a barn behind his Grade II-listed farmhouse in Brechfa.

Bobby Bazalgette spent £70,000 restoring the listed house and added solar panels to an unlisted barn.

The council said the panels were "detrimental to the setting of a listed building" and has ordered him to remove them or face prosecution.

He has lost an appeal over the decision and said he is "devastated".

Before Mr Bazalgette bought the house the council said it was not listed when, in fact, it was.

Image caption Bobby Bazalgette spent £70,000 restoring the listed house

After moving in, Carmarthenshire told him it was and he had to restore the house after previous owners had made alterations.

But the council admitted it made a mistake and had to pay Mr Bazalgette about £65,000 in damages and costs.

In a statement, the authority said it "does not target owners of listed buildings" but added it will investigate breaches of planning controls, with prosecution a "last resort".


Julian Orbach, who listed buildings for Cadw in the 1980s and 1990s, said: "There is a problem with pursuing people who are doing their best to keep up listed buildings, while other things are just falling apart.

"My feeling is that the solar panels are neither here nor there in the context of an important, historic building in Carmarthenshire. They really are unimportant."

Mr Baker said the case raises wider concerns.

"I think that the planning laws and guidance are quite open to interpretation and you can see that with the different approaches of the local authorities," he said.

"Cadw, since it's been taken into the Welsh government [in 2005] really has lost its edge.

"Everything is passed to local authorities who just can't cope with the added pressure of looking after historic buildings and mistakes happen. I think the case in Carmarthenshire is an example of this."

Deputy Culture Minister Ken Skates said: "New guidance, which will accompany our Historic Environment (Wales) Bill, aims to build on this further by introducing measures that will ensure there is a more careful and consistent management of change to listed buildings across Wales."

Image caption The front of Bobby Bazalgette's house

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