Developer fined again over Goldfinger cottage

Marguerite Lazell

The demolished cottage in the grounds of Brandlehow School.

Heritage group questions approach to ensuring listed structure is rebuilt

A developer who illegally demolished a listed cottage designed by Erno Goldfinger has been fined for a second time for failing to rebuild the structure to “exactly match” its former appearance.

But the Twentieth Century Society this week questioned whether the local council’s actions were realistic, given the “pathetic” fines imposed by the courts.

Last year Rajiv Laxman, sole director of Croydon-based property development firm Abrus and owner of the former caretaker’s cottage at Brandlehow School in Putney, south-west London, was fined £11,000 for demolishing the 1952 grade II listed building.

Now Wandsworth Council’s planning department, which is prosecuting Laxman, has revealed he has been fined a further £13,000 by magistrates after failing to comply with a notice ordering him to rebuild the cottage to match the original.

The Twentieth Century Society questioned whether the financial penalties imposed on Laxman would have any effect.

“Ordering the rebuilding of it would [in theory] act as a deterrent,” director Catherine Croft said. “But the fines are so pathetic and very low compared to what you could get from a site in an area such as Wandsworth.

Councillor and planning applications chairman at Wandsworth, Leslie McDonnell, insisted the council’s actions would bear fruit, claiming Laxman could face a third prosecution if he continued to ignore the requirement to rebuild the cottage and “unlimited fines” if the case went to Crown Court.

“This is an important building and the council is determined to ensure that the enforcement notice is complied with and the cottage rebuilt,” he said.

But other experts suggested the council should issue a compulsory purchase order of the site so it can take control of the rebuilding project.

Assael Architects’ Philomana Ma, project architect on the redevelopment of the 1930s grade II listed Wallis House in west London by Wallis Gilbert & Partners, said she would back such an approach.

“If fines aren’t working, there must be some other way to deal with it,” she said.

In a sign of the local authority’s determination to see the cottage rebuilt, representatives from the council last month unearthed Goldfinger’s original plans for the project following a visit to the RIBA drawings collection with former Goldfinger archivist James Dunnett.

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