Recent prosecution highlights need for period property planning permission

A recent high-profile planning prosecution case has caught our eye…

A 600-year-old Grade II-listed property in Hellingly, Sussex underwent illegal changes by its former owners Councillor Barby Dashwood-Morris and her ex partner Alan Proudfoot.

The changes included the creation of a full height entrance hall through the removal of ceilings, joists, beams and partitions, destroying an area where there’s anecdotal evidence of a priest hole – a hiding place for Catholic priests during persecutions (under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Catholic priests were often imprisoned, tortured and even killed); glazing of a partition; and removal of the barley twist bannisters and associated rail to the staircase and replacing them with glazed panels. A servant’s entrance added in the 18th century – which was described as an important architectural feature showing the social history of the time – had been replaced near to the grand entrance hall. New windows were also installed, and all of this without proper planning permissions. The changes were only discovered when Dashwood-Morris tried to sell the property.

Shockingly, Dashwood-Morris renovated the property whilst she was chairman of Wealden District Council’s planning committee!

Hailsham Historical and Natural History Society, described the changes as “historic vandalism”.

Brighton Magistrates Court were told the work was a “substantial erosion” of history and fined Dashwood-Morris £75,000 and her ex partner £48,000. District Judge Teresa Szagun said the pair had, “intentionally disregarded the requirement for consent – focusing on [their] own needs”.

period property planning permission bristol

600 year-old Grade II-listed Priest House in Hellingly, Sussex

Doing it right

At we find this case all the more alarming when we consider the defendant’s profession.

In a statement Dashwood-Morris told the court the pair “strongly believed at the time” the works did “not require authorisation.” We believe she, of all people, should understand the importance of sympathetic restoration.

Planning regulations exist to prevent property owners making changes to their property whenever they feel like it. Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings are identified as places of historical and cultural interest and importance, and are subsequently protected by highly stringent planning laws.

That a senior planning officer, whose role it was to enforce these laws, was the perpetrator of such a blatant disregard for the proper procedures is inexcusable!

The Professionals

Of the case in question, Kelvin Williams, the current Head of Planning & Environmental Services at Wealden District Council, said, “Owners of historic properties should be aware of their responsibilities to the property and future generations.”

At we work tirelessly to ensure our work and the renovations we carry out on any property, Listed or otherwise, meet local council planning criteria. We understand the process can be a frustrating one, with a lot of paperwork to complete, but it is necessary and we will not work on a property without the proper authorisation. So much so, we often process the planning applications for our customers to take the burden off them and ensure all the boxes are ticked, and planning consent has been granted.

Don’t fall foul of the law and land yourself in-breach of planning regulations like Ms Dashwood-Morris and Mr Proudfoot. Use the services of a professional property renovation company such as We will ensure the work on your home is not only to the highest quality, but is carried out with the proper permission in place. Your property will be beautifully restored, noise, draughts and other problems eliminated, all whilst retaining its historical charm and original features.

Call our team on 0117 230 2828 or email You can also use the Book A Survey form on our website.

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