HL Deb 25 February 1988 vol 493 cc1413-4WA
Baroness Jeger

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they will take to enforce the covenants to keep in repair the Grade I listed building of Heveningham Hall, which they attached when they sold it to a private individual in 1981.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (The Earl of Caithness)

The following three conditions were attached to the conveyance of the Heveningham Hall: to permit public access to the principal rooms and to the gardens on at least 30 days each year unless prevented by circumstances outside the owner's control; to complete within five years the restoration of the orangery; and to use the best endeavours to complete a tree planting scheme recommended by Dame Sylvia Crowe in 1975. In addition, the owner entered into a hiring agreement whereby certain items of furniture in the house which remained in the Secretary of State's ownership were to be hired to him for a nominal rent, subject to conditions relating to their care. The conveyance did not impose any general obligation to repair and maintain the building.

Resoration of the orangery was completed in 1985, but the tree planting scheme remains to be done.

Most of the furniture covered by the hiring agreement is currently in store, under the custody of English Heritage. The house was open for 30 days in 1982 and 1987 respectively; access during the intervening years was limited because of building work.

Despite the regrettable delay, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has no reason on present information to doubt the owner's intention to complete the outstanding repairs. But should there be serious doubts about this we would have to consider serving a repairs notice under Part VI of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971.