Council planning chief who renovated Listed home without permission taken to court after starring in Channel 4 show

Telegraph Reporters
Barby Dashwood-Morris was the chairwoman of Wealden District Council's planning committee - Solent News & Photo Agency

A Conservative district councillor who made alterations to her 14th century house without planning permission was taken to court after it appeared on a Channel 4 property show. 

Barby Dashwood-Morris, 70, failed to get planning permission for changes to the Priest House from Wealden District Council -  despite also serving as chair of its planning committee.

The East Sussex house appeared on "Double your House for Half the Money", presented by Sarah Beeny, in 2013. 

At the time Ms Dashwood-Morris, who was then chair of the council's planning south committee, said: "They were scheduled to spend two-and-a-half hours but actually were here for over four and they were so very enthusiastic about how the house looked - 'even better than they hoped'."

She added: "I was thrilled. Although not a professional I do 'dabble' and was responsible for all the design ideas throughout the house and it was a huge compliment to know others thought it was worth filming.

The Old Priest's House in Hellingly, East SussexCredit: SWNS-London

"Because The Priest House is over 600-years-old and Listed, I worked closely with Wealden District Council Conservation department to ensure all the plans met with their approval.

"I started by commissioning an archaeological/historical report that gave the details of the changes made over the years.

"This gave a clear insight into what was precious and needed to be preserved and those areas that had little merit so could be altered or removed.

"Renovating a home of this age means finding and using a lot of craftsmen to undertake many rare and often forgotten skills and understandably that costs money.

"So to keep to the budget I worked with a number of wonderful Sussex specialists who taught me some of their skills and I undertook many of the more labour intensive tasks myself.

"The entire project took over 10 years as I worked on one room at a time and after what seemed to be a life-time the house was complete.

"I have learned so much and the finished house if an example of how to turn an ancient Sussex Hall into a home that meets all the comforts of modern living."

But she was forced to step down as the Chair of Wealden District Council when she came under investigation for allegedly breaching planning rules while renovating her home.

Barby Dashwood-Morris has already admitted six of the 22 countsCredit: https://www.wealdenconservatives.com/person/cllr-barby-dashwood-morris-0

The council confirmed that the Chiddingly and East Hoathly councillor would not stand for a second year as Chair as she faced an ongoing inquiry by its planning department.

Charges were laid following a detailed probe into claims she breached planning rules while renovating the 14th Century building.

The changes are said to have been carried out between October 1997 and December 2015.

It is understood Ms Dashwood-Morris bought the house, which dates to 1374, in September 1997 for £224,200. It is now estimated to be worth more than £830,000.

She admitted six of 22 counts of executing the demolition or alteration of a building affecting its listed character at Brighton Magistrates' Court, and was bailed to a hearing later this month.

Defending, Stephen Whale said: "There was certainly no intention to commit offences and neither were they reckless.

"These defendants purchased the property in 1997 in poor condition and conducted a full structural survey and asked to meet with local conservation experts in site within weeks.

"What happened is when building works unfolded they uncovered other issues they needed to address."

In a statement to the court Ms Dashwood-Morris said: "We strongly believed at the time these works were authorised or didn't require authorisation."

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