St Mary’s Lodge (present-day address: 73 Lordship Road, Stoke Newington, London N16) dates from around 1843. It is much loved locally and its derelict state is an eyesore and a health (vermin) and fire hazard.
In the late 1950s the house’s last private owner, Mr Cecil Goldey Hyde, sold St Mary’s Lodge to the London County Council for £6250 (well below the property’s market value at the time) on the proviso that it would be used for charitable purposes.
From the early 1960s, the local authority (firstly the LCC, then Hackney Borough) used St Mary’s Lodge as a hostel for single mothers. The hostel was closed in the mid 1990s, and the building and grounds were left unmaintained and unsecured. Squatters did a lot to keep the property watertight.
In February 2002 the property was scheduled to go up for auction, with a reserve price reported as £750,000, but was withdrawn from the auction the day before it was due to go on the block, and sold to the trustees of the Torah Etz Chaim Synagogue (located next to St Mary’s Lodge) for a reported £705,000. £750,00 was the price range of terraced houses in the street at the time and a a very low price for an inhabitable mansion with substantial grounds. When the property was sold by the Council in 2002, a covenant was placed on the title restricting its use for the purposes of community uses or the provision of education (information from the Victorian Society).
Since that time, the house has never been used. It has been allowed to decay further and in 2005, a fire gutted the building, leaving only the exterior shell.
During this time the Council has not been inactive. In 2003 Mayor Jules Pipe and Councillor Vincent Stops had themselves photographed in front of the building claiming that they had stepped in to prevent its demolition. The Photograph was published in both the Hackney Gazette (Nov 27th 2004) and in Hackney Today.
At that time (27th Nov. 2004) Mayor Pipe again gave a public assurance that the council would do everything legally possible to protect the building. Yet ever since St Mary’s lodge has remained derelict and decaying.
Five years ago in 2009, after a long period of complaint and meetings with local residents, an application to restore and develop the Lodge, with the construction of additional buildings, was made (2009/2431). The local Conservation Area Committee gave the 2009 planning application by the Tora Etz Haim (TEC) synagogue a cautious welcome subject to various concerns about materials and scale. They went out of their way to say that the garden should not be preserved as open space at the expense of the renovation of the lodge. However, that application remained “under negotiation” for three years. We do not know why the application was not approved.
Later in the year it was discovered that half of the back wall had been demolished and the bricks removed, presumably for re-sale. 14 local residents wrote to the Gazette complaining of the situation. The Owners said that the bricks had been stolen.
A local resident had made a note of the number plate of the vehicle removing the bricks and this was passed to Mr Graham Loveland of the Council’s Planning Department. He passed it to TEC and they said that they had passed it to the police. However, email enquiries made to Sergeant Ryan of the Lordship safer neighbourhood team (2nd October 2009) and to Sergeant Sue Wright (15th July 2010) elicited no reply.
In 2009, in an email to local resident the Mayor, Jules Pipe said:
I share you concern that St Mary’s Lodge remains in a state of serious disrepair, and that this has been exacerbated by the recent removal of much of the western wall of the building. I have previously asked the Council’s Planning department to take all necessary steps to protect this building, and I am continuing to press for urgent action to be taken. I have been assured by Graham Loveland, Assistant Director for Planning, that this site continues to be of the highest priority for his department, and that a range of actions are being taken to secure the future of the building.
He also acknowledged that many people believed that the bricks had been taken with the connivance of the then owners:
Whilst I appreciate some people will be sceptical about this incident – especially given the recent history of the building – the owners are adamant that the removal of bricks was an act of theft, and not sanctioned or allowed by them in any way.
In 2010, Mr Pipe said in a letter to a local resident that the situation “was not ideal” but rejected a call for compulsory purchase in favour of working with the owners,
and in 2012, in a statement to the Stoke Newington Neighbourhood Forum he said that he was 90% certain of agreement based on the 2009 application.
In April 2012 the property was sold to Keren Habinyan Ltd. For £ 875,000. In the same year, 24 Lordship Park, a semi detached property in the same road, was sold for £995,000
The 2009 application is now listed on the Council website as “withdrawn”. A further application (2011/2526) had been made in September 2011 by the new purchasers including what appeared to be a sympathetic restoration of the lodge but with an island tower block in the back garden. The height of the block was later reduced but the Planning Department judged the application wholly insufficient in detail and it was refused.
The present owners have been allowing builders to use the front drive to accumulate and burn rubbish. In 2013 after a very extensive period of burning a local resident telephoned the enforcement department and complained. He also emailed them and quoted the statement which can be found on the Council website:
If there are potential public health problems we will consider taking formal steps to ensure the problem is cleared up and does not happen again. We will consider compulsory purchase of long-term derelict or vacant properties.
The enforcement department acknowledged but did not reply to that email and the burning continued until the fire brigade was eventually called and put at least a temporary stop to it.
The lodge was sold by the council at an under-value for charitable or community use. It has not been so used for over twelve years and has been allowed to become derelict, collapsed, an eyesore and a fire and health hazard. The back wall has been partially demolished. The adjoining building, the “tack room” has collapsed.
Local residents have no objection to St Mary’s lodge being used as a synagogue or a school or for other community purposes. Equally, they would not object to commercial development as flats, as long as the existing structure is “retained and enhanced” (this was the original condition which the council laid down when the building was put up for auction).
Taking into account that the Council obtained this building in a transaction partly in the form of a gift, the initial covenants on the 2002 sale, the current state of the building and the Mayor’s continual promises, none of which have so far been honoured, local residents surely have the right to ask to see these these alternative plans and to demand that after the time that has elapsed the Council should take legal action to recover the building or at least to ensure that it is restored and put into use.
We are not lawyers but we believe the Council has at least three options:
1. The present derelict state and use for rubbish disposal is a use of the site contrary to the terms of the covenants. Representing the community, the Council can enforce the covenants. It can make the owners restore and put the building to community use.
2. The Council can use S 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to make the owners restore the building.
3. The Council can compulsorily purchase the building and put it to use. I would bring the Councillors’ attention to the following statements made by the mayor on this subject:
In 2009, in his email quoted above the mayor said that :
I have previously pushed for the Council to explore the possibility of acquiring the lodge by a compulsory purchase order. It is important to understand, however, that such action is not straightforward, and would be subject to a legal process and decision by a court.
I have been assured that the Planning service is now starting to develop a workable scheme as a contingency, in case the current negotiations and developments do not succeed.
In an email to local resident V., on the 4th February 2010, Mr Pipe made the further comment:
I pressed the Council’s Strategic Property team to investigate and obtain legal advice on the possibility of obtaining a compulsory purchase order against the owners, on the basis that they had failed to meet their obligation with regard to the condition of the building. However, given the prospect of success and the long timeframe for such action, they concluded it was best to work with the owners to try and achieve a satisfactory reinstatement of this prominent building, in conjunction with their adjacent property. This has resulted in the submission of the current planning application.
I do agree that this is not ideal, and does not reflect the Council’s previous sale agreement that the building should be for community use rather than residential. However, because of the very poor state that the building is now in, the Council is focusing on the most effective way of preserving St Mary’s Lodge.
On the 1st November 2011 he sent an email to local resident LS
I share your concerns at the very slow progress being made to resolve
this matter. As you will know, the owners submitted a planning
application in December 2009 which sought the extension and re-use of St Mary’s Lodge for housing, new residential buildings in the grounds and associated development of the adjoining Torah Etz Chaim Synagogue. It is certainly disappointing that nearly two years later this application has still not been determined, and I have repeatedly expressed my concerns to the Planning service that more effort needs to be made bring this building back into use as soon as possible.
And around the 23rd January 2011, Mayor Pipe, speaking at the SNNF said that he was 90% sure of success with the 2009 application even though the building had already been sold
The owners have had every chance to use the building for the covenanted purpose. It is clear that if left in their hands it will eventually collapse into the ground. We call (yet again) upon the Council, now to compulsorily re-purchase the building before it is too late. There are a myriad of uses it may be put to benefit the whole Hackney community and to enhance the area.