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Conspiracy to demolish properties to widen roads at Madron


Staff member
Mr. R. Whitworth, A.R.I.B.A., of the Ministry of Health, held an enquiry at Penzance, Wednesday morning 8the July 1936, into an application by the West Penwith Rural District Council for confirmation of a clearance order made by them under the Housing Act, 1930, dated 23rd January, 1935, ordering the demolition of buildings described in the schedule to the order within the period specified.
Mr. W. A. B. Battrick, clerk to the West Penwith Rural District Council, represented the Council, and Mr. J. Jewill Hill appeared for the owner, Mrs. Ambrose Taylor.
The Inspector intimated that following the inquiry he would visit the premises in question.

THE COUNCIL'S CASE. Mr. Battrick said: The clearance order in question has been made by the Council under the provisions of Section I of the Housing Act, 1930, the Council being satisfied on the report of their architect that the dwelling houses within the area defined in the order are, by reason of disrepair or sanitary defects, unfit for human habitation, and that the most satisfactory method of dealing with the conditions in the area is the demolition of all the buildings in question. The properties in question are known as N’s. I—6, Fore-street, situate at Madron Churchtown. and owned by Mrs. Marion Beatrice Taylor (in the Order called Mrs. Ambrose Taylor) and occupied (except as to Nos. 4 and 5, which vacant) by Mrs. Letcher, Mr. Bennett, Mrs. W. S. Guy, and Mr. Prowse, who are tenants for periods of less than month.
The properties, generally speaking, are old, worn out, dilapidated and beyond repair, and by reason of such disrepair and sanitary defects fall short of the provision of the Bye-Laws in force in district and the general standard of working-class accommodation. Evidence to this will be given by the architect, a copy of whose report has been supplied to the owner and to the Ministry of Health. An objection to the order has been received from Mr. J. Jewill Hall, solicitor, of Penzance, acting for Mrs. Taylor, in which it admitted that two of the cottages have not been occupied for many years, that they will not in future be occupied as dwelling-houses and that they may be converted into a garage or lock-up-shops. The Council submit that a garage would be a positive danger to the area both from, the point of view the proximity of the property to the road and to the possibility of fire, bearing mind the construction of the buildings, and that in their opinion there is no demand at all for lock-up shops in Madron.
The objection that the cottages have ample ventilation can be set aside on consideration of the report of the architect, who will give evidence as to his findings on examination of the property.
As to No. 4 (asking for recommendations to remedy the defects) the Council are satisfied that the houses are not fit for habitation and that they cannot be made so fit at a reasonable cost and they are not prepared to make the recommendations asked for. As to No. 5 (sanitation), the Council admits that in the absence of a water supply system earth closets are one of the means for disposal which can be adopted in the area concerned, Nos. 1 and 2 use the same closet which is admitted to be in a fair state of repair, but which has insufficient ventilation and light as required by the bye-laws and which the Council submit is insufficient for the use of the occupiers of the premises.
No question of unfair discrimination can be admitted by the Council. The Council agree that there are other properties that will have to be dealt with at Madron, but these others do not admit of their being dealt with this clearance area.
This is the first step by the Council and other properties will be dealt with as further clearance areas or as individual houses under (either Sections 17 or 19 of the Act as the circumstances require.
The Council submit that the question of prejudice does not arise, and even if it does it can in no way affect the tenants who will be re-housed by the Council on site almost opposite to the present houses which they have agreed purchase. The Council regret the financial loss which the owner states she will incur, but they submit that to administer the Act they must proceed on the lines they have adopted, and they therefore ask that the order be confirmed.

Frederick Charles Bray, Associate of Faculty of Architects and Surveyors, and practising at Penzance as an architect and surveyor, said he was the duly appointed housing officer of the West Penwith Rural District Council. He inspected the houses in question on the 24th July, 1935, and made his report to the Council on the 31st July. 1935, "In my opinion," said Mr. Bray, " by reason of the disrepair and sanitary defects as set out in my report, the houses are unfit for human habitation, and the most satisfactory way of dealing with the property is by way of a Clearance Order and I have so advised the Council."
Mr. Hill (cross-examining witness): You say there is a lack of proper water supply? —Yes.
That is the Council's fault? —'Yes.
With regard to the sanitary accommodation, it is impossible to have water closets?— It is not impossible but inadvisable without water supply. How are the closets in Madron flushed? I understand by bucket. What steps have your Council taken during the two years they have had control of this district to get water a supply?—l have nothing to do with water, but I think every endeavour has been made.
As to the sewer? —There is a main sewer running through Madron.
How is it flushed? —I do not know.
There are no sewers in connection with these houses? —No.
All the facilities they have is a grating where they throw their slop water.— Yes.
Replying to further questions by Mr. Hill, witness said he would be prepared to accept the statement that the road there was 20 ft. wide at the top end and 19 ft. 6 ins. at the bottom, and the pavement in front 5 ft. at the top and ft. 10 ins. at the bottom. And the width of the property, exclusive of the pavement, 52 ft.? — Yes.
With a courtlage at the back of 27 ft. deep? — Yes.
That gives you twice the area you requite for courtlage for a new building? —Yes.
You say in your opinion, the best way of dealing with property is by demolition? —Yes
You could deal with the property by a compulsory purchase order? —It could be, but compulsory purchase order was not thought of.
You admit that what would be left when the site is cleared would be of no value? — Not from the Council's point of view.
From any point of view? —That all depends.
You are not acting in collusion with the County Council? –No
The County Council want to widen the road to 30 ft.? —-Yes.
That would reduce the plot to 22 ft. and no house could be built there. It would be valueless? —That. I could not say definitely.
"I am suggesting that your Council is not dealing with this in the best method they could? —It is open to the owner to build if she thinks advisable.
Mr. Hill: These four houses that are occupied bring in Mrs. Taylor, who is a widow with slender means, £1 a week; to pull these houses down and clear the site would cost £200?-I don't dispute that.
Therefore, the effect of this order will be that Mrs. Taylor will lose £50 a year and will have to spend £200 and have nothing left?
The Inspector- you mean to suggest that it will cost £200 to pull these houses down?
Mr. Hill: I have a builder here who will give evidence as to that.
Mr. Hill (continuing his cross-examination) : Don't you think it is very unfair, that, for the benefit of the community, a poor owner should be mulct in £50 a year and part with £200? —I cannot express any opinion as to that. It is my job to take the Act as it is.
You would be able to say so if it were your own property?— Quite so.
Mr. Hill put further questions as to whether the Council had got land for building new houses, and Mr. Battrick replied that they were under contract to buy. There was no actual contract; they were replying on correspondence. The owner had met them magnanimously.
Do you know if the houses will be ready for these tenants if they are displaced?— Mr. Bray: They will be ready approximately within six months after they have received notice.
At what rents?—l could not definitely say: anything from 4s. to 4s. 6d.
Replying to Mr. Battrick. witness said the sewer at Madron runs down in front on the cottages. Almost every house had water closet not supplied with flushing apparatus. One of the floors one of the houses was replaced owing to one of the tenants having fallen through the floor.
Mr. Battrick: As regards water supply, although you are not in a position to state it, you do know that the Council have had a scheme, and that that scheme was recently deferred, as the borough of Penzance have been considering a bigger scheme?— Yes.
Mr. Battrick: Mr. Hill has said that the site would be valueless to the owner if the houses were demolished. You agree it would be valueless also to the Council?—Yes.
Replying to Mr. Hill, witness said he was referring to the Ding Dong scheme.

Richard Hosking, a builder, Heamoor, said that if the building line were put back 35 foot at Madron, what was left of the land would not be of very much value to anybody. The only person it would of value to would the owner of the adjoining land. In his opinion it would cost £200 clear the site, unless people came and took away the stone, but at present there was no demand for stone. He thought the dampness in the walls could be cured by facing the walls with waterproof cement. houses could be reconditioned and made habitable. There were severed water closets in Madron. Mr. J. Jewill Hill, making his submission to the inspector, said Mrs. Taylor, the owner of the houses, was a widow, with one son who was a gardener. Her other son was a dispatch rider and was killed in the war. These houses yielded her £1 week. The only reason for the houses being condemned was because of their state of disrepair, and the sanitary defects were due to the council's negligence. He suggested that the two unoccupied houses should not come within the Order, if it were made. The council were not dealing with the matter as they should. The course the council was harsh one, and one that would incur great hardships on Mrs. Taylor, if the Order were confirmed. There were alternative methods of procedure they could have applied for in order to demolish the buildings or a compulsory purchase order. In this borough, it 'was universal for the council to proceed by way of compulsory purchase orders, thus not inflicting a burden on the owner, for the benefit of the community. "I think I have to say," he said, "that the council have been very negligent about the supply of water and sanitary conveniences. As far know "they have done nothing for the last two years to remedy this disgraceful state of the water supply in Madron. There are over 100 Madron and people have pumps and no effort has been made by the council to supply them. It is ridiculous to supply these people with water closets, and l then for them to go 100 feet away for water to flush them. I don't think the sanitary defects should be taken into account by the Minister."
He thought that the proper and fair course would be to make a compulsory order, and then, confirmed, the site could have cleared and the owner paid' a fair price for it. It was to the benefit of the community to clear the slums, and the legislature had never intended that the whole of the cost should borne by the owner. The council could, if they wished have acquired the houses and reconditioned them, but could not help thinking that there was something behind the County Council widening the road that prevented any scheme of that sort being adopted. The ventilation of the houses was good. There was no overcrowding, and he thought the most people one house was five. The houses were clean. He submitted that the Order was unreasonable and rendered economic development of the site impossible, and would cause Mrs. Taylor to suffer considerable loss-
The clerk, dealing with file question of the water (supply, said his council had almost completed! a scheme when the Penzance borough authority came along, and told them that they were negotiating for a site at Ding Dong mine, which would interfere with the source his council proposed to develop. Penzance gave the undertaking that theirs was proved sufficient, to the satisfaction of the Ministry they would supply Madron with water, and, 'therefore, West Penwith's scheme had been deferred. With regard to Mr. Hill's suggestion that the County Council wished to widen the road, that had never entered the heads his council. The rents paid by the tenants the new houses would not be more than they were paying now. The council proposed building five houses. Three of the houses would have three bedrooms, and two them two bedrooms. The enquiry was then closed'.