Playboy owner of Old Rectory in St Columb told to carry out urgent repairs
THE PLAYBOY owner of an historic building in St Columb will be warned he must carry out urgent repair work – or face being billed for the job.
Cornwall Council has vowed to get tough on property tycoon James Brown, owner of the Old Rectory, who was jailed for five years last year after being caught with a car load of cocaine.
National and local historians have stressed that the iconic grade two listed building, also known as the Old Bishop's Palace, could suffer irreparable damage if left alone for another winter.
It is suffering the effects of severe water damage, dry rot and overgrown vegetation, and has been looted and vandalised. Some ceilings have already caved in.
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It emerged this week that Cornwall Council has finalised a list of vital repairs, which will be attached to an Urgent Works Notice and sent to multimillionaire Mr Brown, 46.
Under current legislation, if he fails to act then the authority can authorise the work and recoup the cash from him.
The Cornish Guardian understands that council chiefs can also apply for a grant from English Heritage for up to 80 per cent of the cost, in order to ensure the repairs are carried out swiftly.
A council spokeswoman said: "The Historic Environment Service has now finalised the schedule of urgent works and this has been passed to planning enforcement.
"If the works required by the notice are not complied with the council could take direct action to carry out these works."
Designed in 1851 by renowned architect William White, the property was intended to be the home of Cornwall's bishop – before it was decided a cathedral would be built in Truro.
It was used as a base for the Women's Land Army during the war and as a meadery restaurant and hotel in the Nineties.
Photos of the building taken this month show smashed windows, loose roof tiles, overgrown foliage and four-inch thick vines snaking around the brickwork.
Dave Tulloch, of Old Rectory Drive, said: "I take my hat off to Mr Brown for throwing so much money at it initially. It's a shame he's had to walk away from it."
Jill Viner, who lives on the same road, added: "It needs to be restored. It would be great if people could walk around the grounds and see it back at its best."
Phil Ellery, of the St Columb Old Cornwall Society, said: "Another bad winter could spell disaster for this unique building."