Swinfen Hall wedding venue closes down amid jail warning over string of unauthorised changes

One of the Midlands' most popular wedding venues has closed down amid a planning bust-up over a string of unauthorised changes to the historic mansion. A swimming pool and new kitchen were among the additions fitted without permission at Swinfen Hall, an imposing property near Lichfield dating from the 18th century and used as a hotel and events venue for several years.

Council officers sent in after a tip-off also found walls had been taken down, doorways blocked up and gates fitted, among other issues. Now a notice on the Grade II* listed Hall's website says: "We are closed. With a heavy heart, we announce the closure of Swinfen Hall Hotel. We extend our sincere gratitude for your support and the cherished moments shared with us."

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A Lichfield District Council spokesman said those responsible could potentially face jail: “Due to the building’s status, and the nature of the works, consent would not be given for the changes that have been made. As a result, Lichfield District Council has served a series of enforcement notices to require that all work stops, and that the building be returned to its former state.”

The unauthorised works also included the creation of balconies, replacement of original fixtures and fittings, installation of UPVC window frames and concealing of fireplaces. The building, which dates from 1755 and the reign of George II, is considered to be of ‘significant architectural and historic value’.

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Works also included ‘the installation of a chandelier through the Rococo ceiling, damaging the central ceiling rose’, ‘removing of brass door handles throughout the ground floor and the replacement with modern composite handles’. And replacing timber sash windows with modern UPVC ones.

Painting of fireplaces and the creation of a new kitchen led to the loss of the ‘historically varnished finish’. A council spokesperson said: “Owning a listed building comes with the responsibility of conserving, maintaining and protecting it for the benefit of the public and future generations.

"This work has been done with complete disregard to that responsibility, and the law, and those behind the work could now face imprisonment. Lichfield district is rich in history, often portrayed through our wonderful buildings, and the council will be robust in protecting them.”

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A listed building enforcement notice and a planning enforcement notice have been issued. The listed building noitice says the damaged features must be restored. One entry in the notice said: “The chandelier to the Rococo ceiling in Room 1 shall be removed and damage caused to the central ceiling rose shall be made good and re-instated to the original detail.”

All the reinstatement works must be carried out within six months – by January 19, 2025. The notice went on: “Breaching this notice is an offence and the maximum penalty on conviction is an unlimited fine. In addition, the council may enter the land and take the steps in paragraph 5 and recover from you any expenses reasonably incurred in doing so.”

The planning enforcement notice references the earth bund, outdoor swimming pool, entrance pillars and gates and balcony and standing area. That unauthorised work must be removed and the previous features reinstated. The time limit for these changes is two months from May 17, 2024 – so by July 17 this year.

Again the planning enforcement notice states: “Breaching this notice is an offence and the maximum penalty on conviction is an unlimited fine. In addition, the council may enter the land and take the steps in paragraph 5 and recover from you any expenses reasonably incurred in doing so.”