Demolition/collapse* of 46-48 High Street

May 2009 saw the demise of the very old and picturesque but unlisted cottages converted to shops in the heart of the Wanstead Village Conservation Area.

These cottages were demolished/collapsed* (*read according to your views) without either planning permission or conservation area consent; permission had been granted for works to the roof and front gable only. The scaffolding was wrapped in polythene sheeting so no one could see what was going on behind. LBR have informed us that the building owner’s defence is that it fell down during the works.

The Wanstead Society have been following this case closely; below is our ensuing correspondence with LBR in an endeavour to reconsider resurrecting the prosecution and secondly in the hope that this lame approach won’t be repeated in future similar circumstances.

Whilst the correspondence is with Mr. Broad, we understand that the decisions were taken by his predecessor Emma Watson:

Our ref: E0565/09 29/06/2010
Date:  29 June 2010

Dear Mr Wernick,

Complaint in relation to 46-48 High Street Wanstead

I refer to your letter of complaint dated 26 June 2010 in relation to the Council’s decision not to proceed with the prosecution over the alleged unlawful demolition of the building at 46-48 High Street, Wanstead. Your letter contained three specific questions and I will answer each of these in turn.

1/ Expert commentary was sought and considered in relation to the structural engineer’s report prepared on behalf of the defence.
2/ No other prosecutions are to be brought.
3/ There are no plans to resurrect the case.

In terms of costs, running a case which not longer meets the evidence test set down in the code for crown prosecutors, runs the risk that in the event of an acquittal, the Court would take the view that the prosecution was brought unreasonably or even maliciously. In those circumstances an order for costs would lie against the prosecuting agency as opposed to central legal aid funds.

While I understand the Wanstead Society’s frustration at this outcome, the decision to discontinue the prosecution was firmly based on the advice of the Council’s legal team and on the desire to protect tax-payer funds against an award of costs.

Yours sincerely,

Murray Broad
Acting Head of Development Control


2nd July 2010

Dear Mr. Broad,

Re: Stage 2 Complaint concerning 46-48 High Street, Wanstead, E11

Thank you for your letter of 29/06/10.

The Wanstead Society are extremely disappointed to learn that LBR did not instruct a suitably qualified independent expert witness; providing a commentary in response is unlikely to be a substitute for an expert thoroughly investigating the matter.  Accordingly, it would seem to us that the Defendant’s testimony may not have been robustly tested.

We reply using the same numbering:
1) Please disclose the ‘expert commentary’ and defendant’s expert report.  We are disappointed to learn that no expert was appointed by LBR.  Please explain why LBR did not agree a Single Joint Expert (or a Party Appointed Expert if a single expert could not be agreed) in accordance with The Criminal Procedure Rules?
2) We will only be satisfied that this proposed (in)action is appropriate upon production of the above.
3) We will only be satisfied that this proposed (in)action is appropriate upon production of the above.
4) Surely no view can be sensibly made as to the risk of an adverse costs award without knowing the strength of the Council’s case (strong in our opinion), and in the absence of eyewitness testimony the commission of expert witness evidence is key to a case such as this.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Wernick
On behalf of the Wanstead Society

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