BRAMPTON’S 300-year-old Grange should be on the market as 12 high-quality flats by this time next year, its owner says.

The former wartime USAF headquarters, which was de-listed in 1980 and was an hotel until five years ago, has been unoccupied since it was acquired by developers Conroy Construction Limited in 2007.

Although planning consent for refurbishment and extensions to provide the 12 apartments was granted by Huntingdonshire District Council in August 2008, including demolition of some later additions to the original house.

The firm's owner, Martin Conroy, acknowledges that work on the Grange has been slow - largely because of unforeseen structural problems - but told The Hunts Post this week that it would resume shortly and should take 10 months to complete.

The lack of progress prompted local people to despair of its ever being completed, and one, Jeff Hawley, applied unsuccessfully to English Heritage to have the structure re-listed.

He told Brampton Parish Council in June that the Grange, which he said dated from around 1870, had been the US EighthAir Force headquarters between 1942 and 1945, and he sought the council's support for re-listing.

Mr Conroy said: "In relation to the listed building request, the Minister for Culture and English Heritage have concluded the building in itself does not have special architectural qualities to warrant listed status.

"As regards the historical associations and in particular the Second World War significance, the retention of the building will ensure the historic associations are retained.

"Prior to any works being undertaken the historic memorabilia in the building, ie photographs and the commemoration plaque, were removed for safe keeping. I have them in my office, and they will be reinstated in the finished building."

He added: "The aim is to ensure the retention of the original building so this has a long term future. The repair and new building works will be undertaken to a high specification and this will include specialist building trades.

Conroy Construction certainly has a track record of painstaking conversion of listed buildings. In the 2000s the company converted the II*-listed early-18th century Grove House in Fenstanton - possibly designed by Sir Lancelot "capability" Brown and first lived in by his son, Admiral John Brown - into high-quality apartments, together with some new-build bungalows in the grounds.

He still owns and lets out two of the apartments in Grove House and three in the grounds.

Mr Conroy has engaged the same specialist company, Beckwith Pointing, to restore the Grange's brickwork with ochre mortar.

"Now that we've sorted out the problems, I hope to get started on the new build [at the Grange] in the next two or three weeks," he said on Monday. "There's a good rental market in Brampton, so we'll probably sell some and let some."

The failure of the listing application came as a relief to Mr Conroy. Had it succeeded, the planning consent would have become void, and Conroy would have had to make a new application for listed building consent, delaying the work and probably adding to the cost.

"There's nothing in the house that's worth preserving, because it has been messed about so much," he said.