Sunday, 22 September 2019

Wall unlawfully demolished for Charlize Theron film

Wall unlawfully demolished for filming of Charlize Theron thriller

PART of an historic wall was demolished unlawfully during filming of a new action thriller featuring a Hollywood star.

The filming of The Old Guard, which stars Charlize Theron and Chiwetel Ejiofor, went ahead in the grounds of Shirburn Castle, near Watlington, despite planning permision not having been granted.

Now South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, has began an enforcement investigation after warning that the brick wall should be properly reinstated.

Planit Consulting, of Godalming, applied for consent for a number of alterations and other work at the historic castle, which is Grade I listed.

These included:

• The creation of a film set depicting New South Wales with a timber cabin of approximately 50 sq m.

• The widening of an entrance gate in order to access the land and set by demolishing a 3m  section of the wall. The land was to be restored on completion of filming and the wall rebuilt.

The council had not granted permission when the filming took place in June and the site was in use for nine weeks between May and July.

The council’s conservation officer Emily Karau said the partial demolition of the wall had taken place without permission. She said the wall was a late 18th century estate enclosure associated with the rebuilding and landscaping carried out at Shirburn Castle at the time. The castle’s boundary walls were considered to be curtelage and included in its listing.

Mrs Karau said: “This application seeks listed building consent and planning permission to demolish and rebuild a section of the boundary wall to facilitate access to the land for use as a film set.

“The demolition of the listed wall is not clearly justified and the retrospective works are only mitigated by the fact that this section of wall had been rebuilt previously.

“Accepting that the wall has now been demolished without listed building consent and that the existing bricks have not been salvageable, it is important that the works to reinstate the wall are carried out to match as closely as possible the existing wall.

“The wall has been partly reinstated without consent and unfortunately the brick that has been used is a poor match for the historic brick. This standard stock brick lacks the variations in colour and texture of the historic brick.

“An attempt has been made to stain these new bricks with a darker weathered finish but this has still not achieved the colour variation of the historic brick.

“Regardless, I have concerns regarding the longevity of a stained finish given the heavy weathering conditions in this location.

“The mortar that has been used is cementitious which, while it may be suitable for use with the standard modern brick used, is not a match for the historic mortar and would be too hard for use on a handmade brick.”

A second application for listed building consent to allow the timber gates, gate posts and a section of wall to be removed was approved last week.

Mrs Karau said: “I note that the wall as currently being rebuilt is shorter than existing and that the proposal now appears to be for a permanently widened access.

“I do not consider this to be objectionable in heritage terms and I hope that this would facilitate easier access at this point in future.

“The existing gates have been disposed of. These were not of historic interest and I have no objection to their replacement with an equivalent. While the application as first submitted would have been broadly acceptable in principle, representing a like-for-like reinstatement, I have concerns about the works that have since been carried out and raise heritage objection to these.”

The council began an enforcement investigation last week. It says the breach relates to the re-building of the damaged wall without listed building consent using materials not consistent with the existing ones.

A spokeswoman said: “The wall, which was part-demolished to allow access for filming, was put back up using lime mortars which were not suitable for the building.

“Our conservation and design team have advised the applicant that they will need to re-build it again using the correct material.  Our enforcement team are also considering whether any further action will be required.”

A spokeswoman for Planit Consulting said: “Listed building consent has recently been granted for works to repair the wall and the section of wall had already been knocked down once before and rebuilt. The final result is better than the poor repair which already existed.”

The rights to The Old Guard, which is based on the comic book series by Greg Rucka and illustrator Leandro Fernández, have been secured by Netflix.

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