National Park wins criminal prosecution for destruction of 17th Century staircase

Mr Mahmood Ali from Newport was fined £1,000 in addition to costs of £2,887.50 awarded to Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority.  Mr Ali pleaded guilty to authorising alterations to a Grade II Listed Building without Listed Building consent at 30 High Street in Brecon which resulted in the removal of a four storey 17th Century oak open well staircase.

The stairwell – which dated from late in the reign of Charles II – formed an intrinsic architectural feature of the former Bell Inn.  The building is probably best known as the location where the actor William Siddons proposed to Sarah Kemble during a play held in the great room of the Inn in 1773.  Mrs Siddons went on to become the best known actress of her day and is probably Brecon’s most famous daughter.

The National Park Authority first received word of the staircase’s removal back in October 2008 when an eagle-eyed member of the public happened to witness its remains as a pile of timber in the rear courtyard of the building.  Within an hour of receiving the complaint, Officers from the National Park Authority quickly established that a serious breach of planning control had taken place and enforcement action was initiated immediately.

The Enforcement Officer for Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said:  “We are extremely pleased to have this successful prosecution under our belts.  This was a serious breach of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Regulations 1990 and we hope the successful prosecution will send a strong message to building owners and others who consider destroying the historic value of our Listed Buildings and heritage.  I would like to thank the members of the public who continue to remain vigilant.”

Will Hughes, Building Conservation Officer for Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said:  “Although we have won the case I am extremely saddened that in the process we have lost a truly fine and decorative example of a 17th Century oak staircase and part of the Brecon’s town heritage.

“It goes without saying that the cultural and historic value of Listed Buildings is of the utmost importance to the National Park and that their important role in creating a sense of place and supporting the local economy through tourism is well recognised.  On a  final note if members of the public think they have seen any unauthorised works taking place – especially on Listed Buildings – I would urge them to contact the National Park Authority as soon as possible.”