£40k fine imposed on Ripon tycoon’s son

Copt Hewick Hall
Copt Hewick Hall

The son of a Ripon property tycoon has been fined £40,000 for work stripping out his mother’s listed mansion without permission.

Richard Sykes, director and owner of West Park Services Ltd, pleaded guilty to six planning breaches at Harrogate Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday after the removal of windows, the floor and ceiling, and architectural detailing at the Grade II listed property in Copt Hewick, near Ripon.

The eight-bedroom property, valued at £4.5m, was purchased in December 2011 by his mother, Valeria Sykes – the estranged wife of Meadowhall developer Paul Sykes.

In the 17 months following the purchase, up to May 2013, a series of works were carried out at the house that are said to have seriously damaged its historic character.

Prosecuting for Harrogate Borough Council, John Hunter said: “The hall had high significance of historic and aesthetic value and was a good example of a late-18th century house set in grounds.

“The removal of the ceiling and the floor between the drawing room and rooms above caused particular concern, as did the extensive programme of stripping out architectural detailing.

“Mr Sykes admits that he and his company bear responsibility for carrying out the works. He was aware that the hall was listed and that warnings had been issued.

“While the harm was not as high as demolition, overall substantial harm was caused to the building, particularly so in the case of the windows.”

A council planning consultant visited the site on several occasions and was said to have been taken aback by the level and pervasive quality of the work being carried out.

In mitigation, Mr Sykes’ legal representative, Paul Greaney QC, said: “You are not dealing with a demolition or a house of the very greatest significance like Castle Howard, though we do not deny that it is significant. The drive was to return the hall to its former glory on behalf of Mrs Sykes, and to make the hall and its grounds authentic to its origins – not to turn it into some form of Premiership footballer’s pad. They had no intention of breaching the Act.”

At the hearing, charges against Valeria Sykes in relation to the planning breaches were withdrawn.