Sarah Beeny’s TV restoration hits a pile of trouble

Sarah Beeny with a model of Rise Hall
Sarah Beeny with a model of Rise Hall
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A planning nightmare is continuing for a TV presenter who set out to restore a crumbling East Riding mansion.

Sarah Beeny, who has made a career advising would-be developers, turned the story of her efforts to turn Rise Hall, near Hornsea, into a wedding and events venue into a Channel 4 show.

A new six-part show Restoration Nightmare starting on Thursday continues the saga of the 97-room mansion, which is embroiled in a series of planning wrangles with East Riding Council.

Beeny told the Yorkshire Post that the past few months had been “traumatic”, complaining that they had been “singled out as an example” by local councillor Matthew Grove.

Beeny, who bought the crumbling mansion a decade ago with her property developer husband Graham, said the council kept changing the goalposts.

Although the council granted a wedding licence last year, people are not allowed to get married “over concerns for the health and safety of their registrars.”

Earlier this year Humberside Fire and Rescue served an alterations notice, restricting use of the bedrooms on the first floor for private use only, as there were no “protected means of escape.”

The service said yesterday most of the alterations had been done but a final inspection was still needed.

The couple still has to obtain building control approval and listed building consent from the council for the work that has been done.

Beeny said: “Every time we agree things, they say they want more things; I think our frustration is that Rise Hall is a really important significant building and everything has been done to a really high standard. They don’t have a problem with what we have done, their problem is that we didn’t talk to them enough about it.”

She said: “I am absolutely sick and tired of it. It’s a great shame because without somebody who loves a building in a slightly mad way buildings like this wouldn’t survive. If the local authority is going to be putting out the flames of any passion, you will lose them.”

She said they had spent £12,000 getting a certificate of lawful development to prove the former school was being used as a private residence, even though the council knew they had been living in it for 10 years.

She said: “I’ve worked with lots of other district councils across the country, but I have never come across building control who were looking for problems, normally they are looking for solutions. They are solutions people – they don’t go on fishing expeditions.”

After the recent trials and tribulations, Beeny has said they “may well” sell up. “I go through moments of frustration. I think if they saw sense and stopped putting unnecessary obstacles in our way... We are there for Christmas, maybe we will have a wonderful Christmas.”

Chief executive of events specialist Dine, which has teamed up with the couple to run Rise Hall for functions, Daniel Gill, said the next wedding was booked in eight months time: “This is a private home which they are trying to earn a little bit of extra revenue from; it is not a 365-day-a-year operation. They are measuring this by the wrong standards.

“In comparison to other similar venues Rise Hall is a very high standard.”

Coun Grove said: “My own parents live in a 500-year-old listed stone manor house which they saved from dereliction and spent their latter years renovating.

“I am fully aware of the difficulties and responsibilities of being a guardian of a historic building, but they had to go through significant scrutiny and approval, ending up having to do things differently and at great cost.

“In this case we have someone who professes to be a property developer who doesn’t follow her own advice. I just believe everyone should be treated equally and should not get preferential treatment from being in a position of influence or power.”

A spokeswoman for Humberside Fire and Rescue Service said: “There’s still some work to be completed before we withdraw the alterations notice.”

East Riding Council said: “The council is disappointed that Ms Beeny appears to be of the view that we have not been as helpful as she would have liked.

“Renovation works on a building of this scale and nature are always complex and the council has consistently offered help and support to Ms Beeny and dealt with her in the same way as we would anyone else in a similar situation.”