The Grange, Hampshire
One of SAVE's strongest suits has been the readiness, when all other alternatives have been exhausted, to resort to legal action.
The first case which SAVE took up in this way was The Grange in Hampshire. This great neo-classical house had been reprieved from imminent demolition in 1972 by ministers and taken into guardianship two years later. Over the next four years, no work of any kind was carried out and it became increasingly apparent that senior officials had decided that The Grange should not be restored at all. They were therefore leaving it exposed to the elements until it reached the point where ministers decided it was a waste of time and money to restore it.
Prolonged correspondence with the Department of the Environment revealed that there were no plans for restoration. SAVE obtained a copy of the guardianship deed. We found that ministers had solemnly undertaken not only to repair The Grange, but also to open it to the public.
Our solicitors, therefore, wrote to the Department of the Environment informing them that we were considering seeking judicial review of the case. Soon after, we received a telephone call requesting us to attend a meeting at the Department with the Head of the Directorate of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings. We were told, of course, that if only a little more time could be provided a satisfactory solution might emerge. But winter was coming on and our fear was that the Grange would suffer further grievous damage. We agreed to a limited extension on the basis that we would have to show the court that we had provided reasonable opportunity for the Department to consider the matter.
From this time, we began to build up pressure on the Department, first on a weekly and then almost daily basis, until eventually we heard that ministers had decided to fulfil the undertakings of the Guardianship deed. The building was restored and is now open to the public by English Heritage.
The writ was never served, but it was perfectly clear that without aggressive and persistent action by our solicitors the Department would have continued to stall indefinitely.
The Grange is now in the care of English Heritage.
More information on The Grange and other country houses can be found on the excellent Website run by Hampshire County Council.