A CONTROVERSIAL £25,000 office refurbishment for Wirral council’s chief officers broke planning laws, the News can reveal.
The upgrading of the chief executive Graham Burgess’s office plus offices for the newly created “super-directors” caused outrage when it was first reported.
Now the council has admitted “due to an administrative error” it failed to obtained listed building consent before the work was carried out to the Grade II listed town hall.
The council has now applied for Listed Building Consent for work at Wallasey town hall for “demolition of existing timber and brickwork walls” – including work already done.
English Heritage, who advise on works to listed buildings, said works requiring consent can “include the replacement of windows or doors, knocking down internal walls.”
The heritage body also advises: “Carrying out unauthorised works to a listed building is a criminal offence and individuals can be prosecuted.”
Alec McFadden, spokesman for Wirral Against the Cuts, had already been critical of the office refurbishment at a time when the council is looking at cutting hundreds of jobs and slashing services.
Mr McFadden, who was himself fined £500 plus more than £4,000 in costs in 2009 for falling foul of Wirral’s planning laws, branded the error “a disgrace”. He said: “It’s one law for those in power and the relatively rich, and another for the rest of us.”
The work to the town hall is part of a wider refurbishment of the historic building to accommodate more staff.
Chief executive Graham Burgess said works were “minimal” and included the redesign of the third floor of the town hall, decorating seven offices – including the chief executive’s office plus creating a waiting room, and “the purchase of standard office furniture and the upgrading of small washroom/kitchen” with a dishwasher and sink unit.
Mr Burgess had also said focus on long term improvements to the building was a “regrettable” distraction when Wirral Council and the borough face “unprecedented budget cuts”.
However, Wirral Council’s assistant chief executive, David Armstrong said: “The work to remove some non-original partition walls and to emulsion and decorate the offices in question has now been completed. Due to an administrative error, planning consent was not sought prior to the work starting which is why we have now applied for this to be granted retrospectively.”
An English Heritage spokesperson said: “All local councils that wish to make alterations to their own listed buildings need to apply for listed building consent if those works have an impact on the historical and architectural interest of the property.”