Buyers beware over 'scenic ruin'

CELIA WIGG Hundreds of people could be bidding at auction for a derelict listed farmhouse in the picture-postcard village of Hoxne - but there could be a twist.

CELIA WIGG

Hundreds of people could be bidding at auction for a derelict listed farmhouse in the picture-postcard village of Hoxne - but there could be a twist.

The crumbling building, set in 2.49 acres of land, is part of the Chestnut Farm estate and is going under the hammer on May 11 with a guide price of just £45,000-£55,000.

Diss auctioneer Gaze has already received almost 600 inquiries and more than 1,500 people have viewed the details online. Mid Suffolk District Council has also been besieged with calls.

But those who dream of lovingly restoring the old timber-framed building near Eye, which is Grade 2 listed for its architectural and historic interest, look set to be disappointed.

For the council has said it is unlikely to grant consent for a rebuild, sparking claims that the planning authority should be doing more to protect the country's heritage.

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Rachael Hipperson, who is handling the sale, said: "It is the council's opinion that residential use has ceased and, because it is listed, you would have to get permission to demolish it. The council's view is that any new building would be in open countryside which is against planning policy.

"We, as agents, are emphas-ising it is 'purchase at risk' and no guarantee that planning consent will be forthcoming."

One potential bidder, who declined to be named, criticised the council.

He said: "I am staggered the planning authority is going to ignore the fact this is a listed building and I get the impress-ion some of the prospective buyers are quite irate. There are just two walls supporting a mound of building material, but someone with the financial ability and skill could restore it."

There have been local precedents, with South Norfolk Council agreeing a complete rebuild of a tumbledown farmhouse at Winfarthing, near Diss, some years ago.

Mid Suffolk's head of planning, Philip Isbell, said the Hoxne building was abandoned and derelict when listed in 1988 and they considered it a "scenic relic" for which residential use had lapsed.

"We could have served a repair notice but if the owner had declined we would then have had to buy the building. Given the authority's resources issues, not many councils do serve these things," he said.

The Chestnut Farm lots include a detached cottage in need of modernisation, and a listed barn with planning permission for conversion into a house and annexe.

For details contact Thos Wm Gaze and Son on 01379 641341, or email prop@twgaze.co.uk.