£3m mansion set for legal battle

THE leader of Westminster City Council has spoken of his “complete shock” after it emerged a council is considering legal action over alterations made to his former £3million Suffolk mansion.

Richard Smith

THE leader of Westminster City Council has spoken of his “complete shock” after it emerged a council is considering legal action over alterations made to his former £3million Suffolk mansion.

Colin Barrow owned 18-bedroom Darsham House, near Yoxford, until 2006, but it is claimed unauthorised alterations have “seriously eroded” the 17th century property's character.

Councillors at Suffolk Coastal District Council have held secret talks about the renovations and now want to take the issue further.


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The authority has already issued nine listed building enforcement notices which demand that “unauthorised work” is made good by April 2010.

Renovations running into “hundreds of thousands” of pounds were carried out at Darsham House when it was owned by Mr Barrow, a former Suffolk county councillor.

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He said last night: “The situation going on is about where the responsibility lies.

“If I have done something that is not appropriate, or people working for me that is not appropriate, it only seems to me to be fair to put right that which has been done wrong on my watch.''

Mr Barrow, who lives in Westminster, said he did not live permanently in the house while the work was underway and visited it occasionally.

“It is a bit of a surprise that two years later the council say that there is a problem and so it was a complete shock to me.''

He added he had employed specialist people to undertake his renovation project which he had wanted done properly.

Mr Barrow, a former deputy leader for the Conservatives on Suffolk County Council, used a family trust to buy Darsham House for £2.7m from the late theatrical agent Sara Low.

He then spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on a renovation project after obtaining listed building consent from Suffolk Coastal District Council before selling the property, which was unfinished, to Mr and Mrs Colin Francis-Smith. The property now lies empty.

The council has compiled a catalogue of complaints about work undertaken at Darsham House and Mr Barrow confirmed that he had been in discussions with the council about the restoration project.

However, he stressed that Suffolk Coastal did not launch an inquiry until this year, two years after he had sold Darsham House.

He said he should have been alerted by the council when he owned Darsham House if there were any alleged unauthorised works going on.

Ivan Jowers, chairman of Suffolk Coastal's development control committee, said: ''On November 3, Suffolk Coastal's development control committee considered a report about Darsham House, a Grade II* listed building, in respect of which a number of listed building enforcement notices have been served.

''The council is considering what form any further legal action will take. Further investigations may need to take place and further legal advice might need to be taken before a final decision is taken, hopefully very soon, as to what legal action is called for.

''While the council recognises that this is a matter of public interest, at present, in fairness to all concerned, no further comment can be made other than to confirm that criminal proceedings against the current owners of Darsham House are not being contemplated.''

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