Fenland District Council seeks Closure Order to combat anti-social behaviour at historic Ely House in Wisbech
Fenland District Council is seeking to legally close an historic property in Wisbech to help preserve the building’s future and protect nearby residents from persistent criminal activity.
The authority will make an application for a Closure Order to close Ely House, a Grade II- listed property in Lynn Road, at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (August 1).
The move was announced just hours after an outbuilding was hit by a fire, the second in a month. The application will be made under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, following a series of incidents at the address.
If the application is successful the property will be closed for a period of up to three months. It means no one will be allowed to enter the house except authorised persons, and anyone caught in breach will be committing a criminal offence.
The privately owned property is currently empty, but access has been gained and various criminal acts committed, resulting in serious nuisance to the local community.
Issues have included anti-social behaviour at all hours, fires being set alight, fly-tipping, drug and alcohol abuse and vermin infestation, with frequent attendance by the emergency services to deal with disorder and crime.
Councillor Susan Wallwork, Fenland’s portfolio holder for communities, said: “It is the property owners’ responsibility to ensure that Ely House is kept in a safe and secure condition. However, we will not tolerate the persistent nuisance and anti-social behaviour that neighbours have suffered from over a number of months.
“We also have an active interest in protecting this historic property, which is reputed to be one of the oldest buildings in Wisbech.
“We have received many complaints from multiple Wisbech councillors and members of the public and are responding in full to their concerns. We have done everything within our legal power to address the complex issues on the site, and worked hard to gather all the necessary evidence to support our application to court.
“I hope the Closure Order is granted to not only provide immediate respite to local residents but to help preserve the building for years to come.”
Last night (Sunday's) blaze has been labelled 'accidental' by Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue, who sent three fire crews to deal with the fire in the outbuilding.
It took the firefighters from Wisbech, Outwell and West Walton over two-and-a-half hours to deal with it.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue said: “On Sunday (28) at 10.55pm one crew from Wisbech, one crew from Outwell and one crew from West Walton from Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service were called to a shed fire on Lynn Road, Wisbech.
“Crews arrived to find an outbuilding on fire measuring 10 x 5 metres. Wearing breathing apparatus, firefighters used two hose reels to extinguish the fire before returning to their stations by 1.20am.
“The cause of the fire was accidental.”
On June 26 a fire, in another of the house's outbuildings, was blamed on arsonists and led to a local councillor calling for urgent action to safeguard the house from future vandalism and damage.
Councillor Dave Patrick had already raised concerns about the future of the house which dates back to the early 17th century and called for action by Fenland District Council to protect it from squatters by getting a closure order put on building.
He said at the time: “A closure order will prevent anyone from entering the building, and will mean anyone who breaches it will face prosecution. The pictures posted on Facebook at the weekend are really concerning, it looks as if a hole has been knocked in one wall and you can see just how bad it is.”