The owner of a Grade II-listed London flat faces legal action for unauthorised changes to her home — even though she claims the work was done 18 years ago by a previous owner.
Dr Priya Singh told Westminster council she had “no idea” changes to her Marylebone Road flat in NW1 were carried out without approval. She believes it was remodelled in 1993 — and says the flat has been sold on three times since then.
Now the council is poised to refuse her “backdated” consent, which could lead to legal action if she fails to return the property to its original state by removing new walls and doors, a fireplace and coving added to the hall.
The alterations came to light when Dr Singh applied to make her own improvements to the flat. Council officers visited and noticed the illegal changes.
Dr Singh has engaged the services of one of the world’s top legal practices, Mishcon de Reya, Princess Diana’s divorce lawyers, to fight her corner.
She wants to be allowed to keep the current layout, but is willing to replace the offending fireplace and cornicing.
However the council is insisting all the works are reversed, an inevitably costly and disruptive process involving moving the kitchen and rebuilding lost walls.
It says it would be “wrong in law” to grant listed building consent – the legal permission required before any alteration can be made to a historic building – simply on the grounds it was done by a previous owner.
And it warns: “The current owner may be liable to enforcement action in respect of the breaches committed by her predecessor.”
Suzanne Bowman, associate at Adams & Remers and solicitor for the Listed Property Owners Club, said the issue should have emerged when Dr Singh bought the property.
“For some reason it seems questions have not been asked,” she said. “There are pitfalls when buying a listed property and Westminster is entirely within its rights.”
Bowman said that the council could give Dr Singh a time limit to restore the flat’s original layout and prosecute her if she fails to comply.