COUNCIL lawyers have told the owner of an old church he could have repaired its historic beams – seven weeks after they collapsed from rot.
David Aveyard is pursuing legal action against Kirklees after the 19th century beams were destroyed in June.
Mr Aveyard, who owns Kirke House in Paddock, had asked for permission to remove them because he feared they were in danger of collapsing.
The council refused permission.
Now its legal services department has sent Mr Aveyard’s solicitor a letter saying he would have been entitled to carry out repairs – without permission.
The letter says: “He (Mr Aveyard) had the ability to carry out emergency works under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 if he considered such works urgently necessary for the preservation of the building or health and safety.”
Mr Aveyard, who wants to turn the church into a hotel, said: “In the 13 years of discussions, emails, phone calls and meetings with the council they have not mentioned this piece of legislation once.
“They are basically saying that it’s my responsibility to have known about it – and my fault that I didn’t. It’s ridiculous.”
The letter also says that the council’s planning officers were working with Mr Aveyard “to achieve an acceptable scheme for the future of this important building”.
Mr Aveyard added: “That’s just a joke. The last time I had one of their officers round here he said he’d been told not to talk to me.”
A council spokesman said owners were responsible for the upkeep of their buildings.
He added: “It is reasonable to assume that anyone who buys a property is fully aware of their responsibilities and the implications of buying buildings of this nature before they make that decision.
“Responsibility for the condition of this building has always rested with Mr Aveyard since he acquired it.
“He has been professionally advised on a regular basis over a number of years, both by ourselves in various dealings we have had with him, and, presumably, by his own professional advisers who are acting on his behalf.
“They would be well aware of all aspects of the regulations relating to buildings of this nature.
“We will continue to do what we can to advise Mr Aveyard, but like all of us who own properties the responsibility for their wellbeing lies with the owner.”