Article by Guy Bell: The fugitive owners of a rundown cottage in Billericay have been ordered to repay £28,000 in repair costs or face losing the building.
Elizabeth Cottage, in the High Street, has been described as an "open sore" following its decline, as roof tiles have been ripped off and its interior is infested with rats.
The landmark 1903 building is one of the first many see when driving into the town, but it has been in disrepair for 40 years.
Councillor Richard Moore, Basildon Borough Council's cabinet member for regeneration and planning, has warned the council could sell the cottage to recover costs.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Councillor Richard Moore"]The owners removed the roof tiling in January 2014 and they tried to take out the chimney stack. In March last year we weather-proofed the roof so we could protect the building. We had a planning committee meeting where enforcement action was taken so we could get the building put back to how it should have been. From seeing the building, the owners have done absolutely nothing in the past 12 months. None of the services are connected to the cottage, including gas and electric and we, as a council, have decided this has gone on too long. We would like our money back so we have put a notice on the building addressed to the two owners and this is the correct procedure, as we are seeking repayment. The costs are £28,000 and we want it to be repaid by March 19.[/quote]
No planning permission was in place during the owner's work on the roof of the cottage.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Mr Moore"]If no one comes forward with the money then the next step is to serve a further notice because we want the money back. If we can't get the money from them then we will sell the cottage to recover the costs. The building is structurally sound, but there are bits of it falling off and it is going into slow decline. I don't know if it can ever be saved as a building.[/quote]
The elusive owners still pick up their post and Mr Moore has urged neighbours to voice their frustration at the state of the site.
Original article by Guy Bell, Ongar Gazette