Homeowner ‘disgusted’ council took him to court

Stuart Duffield at his home in Longmeanygate, Leyland
Stuart Duffield at his home in Longmeanygate, Leyland

The owner of a house on Longmeanygate, who was taken to court by South Ribble Council, says he feels ‘disgusted’ at how his family has been treated.

Stuart Duffield is ‘relieved’ he doesn’t have to demolish his home to allow the road to re-open, but believes the issue could have been resolved 12 months ago.

Longmeanygate has been closed since a fatal accident in April last year, when a driver over the drink-drive limit crashed into the barn.

Emergency works were put in place to prop the building up, but the council took Stuart and his partner Lindsay Cavanagh to court on Friday, arguing that the building is not safe and needs to be part-demolished.

But Preston Magistrates’ Court instead ordered the couple to complete work on their home to allow the road to be used once again by the summer.

They have until July 25 to ensure that the building is structurally sound, and then work can progress to get the road re-opened.

Dad-of-four Mr Duffield says the move was a ‘massive U-turn’ by the council, which he says had been putting pressure on his family to part-demolish before the insurance money had been paid.

“I was relieved at first when the court said we didn’t need to demolish,” he told the Guardian. “But then when I started to think about how we’ve been dealing with this for more than a year, it also makes me feel disgusted.

“I don’t know what on earth the council has been playing at. It didn’t need to go to court.

“We’ve always said there was an alternative solution, to put internal scaffolding up and clamp the building together that way, until the insurance company pays out and we can do the full job.

“But they went in for demolition, saying any temporary measures were unacceptable.

“So they did the biggest U-turn ever on Friday, and saying our proposal is acceptable. They took us to court for nothing. That road could have been open 12 months ago.

“We’re now being forced to do the work under a court order which we wanted to do in the first place.”

He added: “It was me and Lindsay against the council, and to stand up and fight them has been a nightmare.

“The only firm we should have been battling with is the insurance company, but this court thing has put a spanner in the works with that because the insurers said they wouldn’t speak to us until this court matter was resolved.”

South Ribble Council’s cabinet member for planning, Coun Cliff Hughes, said: “I am delighted this ongoing issue is set to finally be resolved and we can now move forward to get the road open once again.

“It’s a result that I am sure residents will welcome with open arms following more than a year of disruption.”

Leyland South West County Coun Michael Green added: “It’s a crucial route for the community and has caused a lot of inconvenience. I can’t comment on the negotiations but I feel an agreement may have been reached a lot earlier.”