Article by Piers Meyler: An iconic Billericay landmark has been sold for £356,000 at auction - more than £75,000 above its reserved price – finally bringing an end to the long standoff with its owners.
Basildon Council sold Elizabeth Cottage, at the gateway of Billericay High Street, via Barnard Marcus auctions in London today (February 6) in an attempt to cover the £28,000 bill of weatherproofing the decaying building.
The landmark 1903 property has been in disrepair for 40 years.
But after two years of failed attempts to get in touch with the owners, the council is now finally able to recover money it invested in protecting it from further damage, while paving the way for developers to improve the building.
Leader of Basildon Council, Phil Turner, explained he had forced the sale as part of the process that is available to local authorities when the owners are reluctant to do anything.
The building, on the site of a Quaker chapel, is not listed but is seen to be of local historical value.
It has not been lived in for about 40 years and was left to deteriorate for a year after developers tried to demolish it without permission at the beginning of 2014.
But the owners, who the council has never been able to trace as the only correspondence address they use is Elizabeth Cottage, have not improved the building and it took a hefty investment from the council to ensure the building's deterioration could be halted.
Councillor Turner explained that when the owners took the roof off, the council secured it by putting tarpaulin on it to make it good.
He added that being in a conservation area, he would be looking to work with conservation experts to maintain its keeping with the High Street and its historic character.
Read original article by Piers Meyler, Essex Live