Council shelves Richard Hammond's bid to revamp £2million castle

Council puts brakes on Top Gear star Richard Hammond’s bid to revamp his Grade-II listed £2million 15th century castle with new glazed kitchen and sunroom

  • Richard Hammond’s plans to revamp Bollitree Castle in Herefordshire are axed
  • He sought to transform Grade II-listed building with luxury kitchen and sunroom 

Council officers have shelved an application by Top Gear star Richard Hammond to revamp his Grade-II listed £2million 15th century castle with a new glazed kitchen and sunroom.

Mr Hammond’s dreams of renovating Bollitree Castle in Herefordshire were finally put to bed by Herefordshire Council after months of toing and froing reportedly failed to address officers’ heritage concerns.

Hammond’s plans were originally approved in 2019 but they took an unexpected turn in March 2021, when he sought to introduce new design features – including a glazed kitchen and boot room extensions, internal alterations, and transforming the existing conservatory into a sunroom, The Forest Review reports.

At this point, the council’s buildings conservation officer, Conor Ruttledge, halted the plan while requesting further information.

And since the deadline has now elapsed, Simon Rowles, Herefordshire Council’s development manager, wrote to Hammond informing him the plans are to be disposed of.

Richard Hammond and his wife Mindy (above) bought their castle near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, for £2m in 2008

Hammond and his wife wanted to tear down this conservatory (pictured as it looks currently) at the back of their 15th century castle and replace it with a larger sun room

Mr Rowles noted there had been an inability to secure a meeting, or to receive the additional required information from Mr Hammond.

Planning documents reveal that conservationists claim the new plans will cause ‘unjustifiable harm’ to the house.

Sarah Lewis, inspector of historic buildings and areas for Historic England, said: ‘Bollitree Castle forms part of a group of highly graded listed buildings with immense character and much historic and aesthetic value.

‘The proposal to replace the conservatory and erect an extension on the north elevation results in unjustified harm to significance that was avoided by an alternative scheme.

This is an artist’s impression of how their new sun room would look, which will incorporate a bigger kitchen, which has been slammed by Historic England as ‘inappropriate’

The star’s plans (above) have been condemned as ‘visually and architecturally intrusive’ by Historic England, who have recommended that the proposals are redesigned

‘Historic England recommends that the proposals are reviewed and redesigned to avoid this harm.’

Ms Lewis added in a letter to the council: ‘Historic England considers that the kitchen would result in harm to significance due to its visually and architecturally intrusive form and inappropriate function.

Hammond (pictured) is one of Britain’s most recognised TV presenters after fronting Top Gear

‘These concerns underline the principle issue that externalising a traditionally low-status – and thus discreetly located – function on the garden elevation of the historic house would create an awkward and inappropriate contrast with this building’s traditional layout and character and result in harm to significance.

‘Historic England has concerns regarding the applications on heritage grounds.’

A design statement by Hammond’s architects state that his new plans have the advantage of making the kitchen immediately adjacent to the dining room and hall.

The statement says: ‘The clients’ requirement for kitchen accommodation is modest and as such this element fits in a plan marginally larger than that of the approved sunroom.

‘The main advantage of this is that the approved location for the kitchen extension can be set aside for back of house utility and boot room within the approved footprint, without the need to subdivide or compromise the historic room that is the existing kitchen.’

The couple originally had plans for a kitchen and boot room extension and a new sunroom at the castle (above) approved by Herefordshire Council in 2019, but they have changed the plans

As part of their new application, the Hammonds submitted this sketch of the south west elevation of their beautiful property 

Hammond and his wife Mindy have spent the past 13 years living happily at the castle (above) 

Car aficionado Hammond tried to push through his new plans with the help of a report he commissioned for the previous plans by heritage expert Justin Ayton, who has had no involvement with the current proposal.

Historic England meanwhile demanded that the kitchen and utility room plans are redesigned if they are to be approved by the council. 

Hammond made his name as one of Britain’s most recognised TV presenters fronting Top Gear and now The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime with Jeremy Clarkson and James May. 

He almost died in 2006 when his jet-powered Vampire dragster spun off a runway at 288mph in a Top Gear stunt. 

The father-of-two later revealed he experienced depression, paranoia and memory loss due to brain damage suffered.

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