Council takes row over damaged house to court

The barn on Longmeanygate before it was converted into a house
The barn on Longmeanygate before it was converted into a house
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South Ribble Council is hoping to get permission from court to part-demolish a Leyland home which is preventing a busy road from re-opening.

The house on Longmeanygate was destroyed in April when drunk driver Geoffrey Gill crashed into it as homeowner Stuart Duffield and his family were sleeping. The converted barn has since been propped up by steel bars, which take up most of the road.

The council has now confirmed it is taking legal action to seek an order from the courts to partly demolish the building so that one lane can be re-opened to traffic – with the cost falling to Mr Duffield.

But Mr Duffield, who is still waiting for the insurance money to come through from the incident, has vowed to put up a fight.

He said: “They’re arguing the building is unsafe and that’s why it needs demolishing, but it is safe as it stands.

“We agreed for the council to do that work – to put the steel bars up – when the incident first happened, and it’s not in a state of collapse.

“If it was going to fall down, it certainly would have done in this weather. Now they’re saying it’s not safe, but they’re the ones who did the initial work.

“They want to do this now so they can re-open the road, but that’s a separate matter.

“The road isn’t our responsibility, and we’ve already had the work done to the building to make it safe.

“We’ve also done everything in our power to get the insurance sorted, and that’s going to court now as well.

“The council knows that, but they’re still insistent on holding us to ransom.

“Our first step once the insurance money comes through is to do this bit of work, the building does need part-demolishing and re-building, and we’re happy for the road to be re-opened then.

“We can’t afford to just do this work though. We need the insurance money first.”

Mr Duffield originally agreed to demolish his living room and an upstairs bedroom two months ago, but has since said he felt ‘bullied’ into the decision by the council.

He added there is ‘real controversy’ surrounding the issue of the converted barn being so close to the road in the first place.

“When we applied to South Ribble Council for planning permission to change this into a house, we wanted to move it back away from the road,” he said. “But we were told the building is of ‘historical significance’ and we weren’t allowed to make those sort of changes.

“We always thought it was too close to the road, and now this has happened. But the council is wanting to re-open the road in the same manner as it was before, and bulldoze the ‘historic’ barn.

“It doesn’t make any sense. I’ve got to fight them over this.”

His partner, Lindsay Cavanagh, added: “We’re having to fight on two fronts now – Geoffrey Gill’s insurers and the council.

“We can’t afford to do this work, we’ve nothing left after all the legal bills we’ve had to pay.”

South Ribble Council’s cabinet member for strategic planning and housing, Coun Cliff Hughes, said: “We have been working with the homeowners and other agencies since the incident to enable the road to be re-opened as soon as possible.

“We are now taking legal action with the aim of securing an order to carry out the work to make the building safe.

“It would therefore be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”