Captain Tom’s daughter has been ordered to pull down the luxury spa complex she built in her garden.
Hannah Ingram-Moore, 53, and her husband Colin, 66, have lost an appeal against Central Bedfordshire Council’s order to pull down the £200,000 sauna and spa.
The Planning Inspector Diane Fleming visited the site last month and today (Tuesday) ruled in the council’s favour.
The Ingram-Moore’s were given permission by the council to erect a “Captain Tom Foundation Building” in the garden where he raised £38 million for the NHS by walking 100 laps before his 100th birthday.
His tremendous feat was completed during the first Covid lockdown in the Spring of 2020 at the family home in the village of Marston Moretaine on the outskirts of Bedford.
He became a global phenomenon and was knighted by the Queen.
Community space to luxury spa and sauna
Captain Tom died in February 2021 at the age of 100. Six months later, Central Bedfordshire Council, agreed to allow a building on an old tennis court at their manor home – The Old Rectory in the village of Marston Moretaine.
It was believed it would be a community space to store thousands of cards and gifts sent by admirers.
But neighbours were aghast when a larger, luxury spa with a pool and sauna appeared.
Neighbour Barry Shaw said the C-shaped building that overlooks his home in Woburn Road is 49 per cent bigger than the L-shaped building that was granted permission.
He said: “The consent given was five metres from our property. Now it is 2.9 metres away. Why has it been so much closer to our fence? The building is 49 per cent bigger.”
Mr Shaw said the new building is also 450 per cent bigger than the average houses in Banks Close, where there are pensioners’ bungalows.
He went on: “We are particularly frustrated that the whole area of the property (The Old Rectory) is 14,500 sq metres and they chose to build it directly at the bottom of our gardens.”
Council planners say the new building was not what was intended and have ordered the couple to pull it down, issuing a “now unauthorised building” notice.
Richard Procter, the Principal Planning Enforcement Officer at Central Beds Council said the original building was approved because the balance of public benefit outweighed the harm.
He went on: “The scheme was for storing the cards. There has been no information given to the council about the use of the spa.”
Scott Stemp, the barrister representing the Ingram-Moore family said the old tennis court had fallen in disrepair. He said the intention had to build a store for a selection of memorabilia and associated items – not to store all the memorabilia.
He said the building was unfinished and had not been cladded as work stopped because of the council’s enforcement order.
The Inspector, Diane Fleming, visited the spa building and the neighbouring properties.
In documents appealing against the notice, the family said the building was “no more overbearing” than a previously approved planning application and the “heights are the same”.
The appeal statement by Colin Ingram-Moore said: “The subject building is no more overbearing than the consented scheme.
“The view is virtually identical save for a pitch roof being added to the elevational treatment. The heights are the same. As such there cannot be an unacceptable overbearing impact.”
The couple also said the council had “no grounds supporting the refusal of the retrospective application” and “requested” the inspector to uphold the appeal.
The council said its reports “detail harm caused to the setting of the listed building and, in particular, the significant difference between the two schemes that arises from the lack of sufficient public benefit that has been proposed in respect of the unauthorised building”.
Documents from the local government body also state the demolition requirement is not “excessive” and the “size and scale of the unauthorised building” has an adverse impact on neighbours.
The couple used the name of the Captain Tom Foundation when the plans were first lodged. Permission to go ahead was granted in August 2021, but the charity said it had no knowledge of the proposal.
They say the building which is estimated to have cost £200,000, was paid for with their own money.
Asked by the inspector how much of the building would be used for the family’s charitable work in connection with Captain Sir Moore, Mr Stemp said it was in the region of a two-thirds, one-third split. The plan is to allow groups to come and have older people to get people to talk to each other, he said.
On behalf of the Ingram-Moores, James Paynter, a surveyor, said the building would be used for a coffee morning environment. “The family want to get people to talk to each other.”
He said the scheme had evolved to include the spa. “The spa pool has the opportunity to offer rehabilitation sessions for elderly people in the area. They want to offer one-to-one sessions, on a once or twice per week basis.”
But another elderly woman resident told the inspector: “The village is extremely well served.” She said there were two cafes and sheltered accommodation where elderly people can meet.
For the council, Mr Procter said: “The Spa takes up as a good part of the building. I am struggling with the concept that it is there for the public good. “
He said if it was to be used by the public there would be a need for proper planning and permission.
In her ruling, Ms Fleming said: “ At the time of the former, the Council understood the use of the building was to be mostly in connection with the Captain Tom Foundation (CTF).
“Mr Ingram-Moore (son-in-law of Captain Tom) is a trustee of the CTF and at the time Mrs Ingram-Moore (Captain Tom’s daughter) was the interim Chief Executive Officer.
“The Council had concerns about the size of the building but in the planning balance exercise, this was outweighed by the public benefits. These benefits were that the building would be used for much-needed “charitable purposes” and that it was “urgently required to facilitate Foundation activities, including presentations to the press and TV.”
She went on: “The scale and massing of the building has resulted in harm to The Old Rectory which I find suggested conditions would not overcome. I therefore conclude that the appeal on ground (a) fails.”
The couple have three months to demolish the building.
Reporting by South Beds News Agency