Littlehey Prison: Historic building repairs get go-ahead

HEADQUARTERS: Huntingdonshire District Council's Pathfinder House

HEADQUARTERS: Huntingdonshire District Council's Pathfinder House - Credit: Archant

Neglected buildings which once formed part of a Second World War spy training centre and later a prison are set to be repaired by the Ministry of Justice.

Planners at Huntingdonshire District Council has given the go-ahead for remedial work to be carried out at the listed stables to Gaynes Hall at Perry, and the associated Paxton Cottages which have falling into decay.

The Ministry of Justice intends to mothball the buildings until a viable use can be found them.

Council planners said that the description of repairs would be “ambiguous” until work started and the full extent of what needed to be done was discovered.

The “high quality” buildings, grouped around the stables, once formed part of the Gaynes Hall mansion and were part of what became Littlehey Prison.

Three of the four buildings, dating from the 1870s, are listed and two stand to be repaired by the ministry, although some work could be carried out on the unlisted building. The fourth is under separate ownership.

Gaynes Hall was requisitioned from its owner during the Second World War and became a spy training for the Special Operations Executive whose agents were dropped into occupied Europe.

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After the war the building became Gaynes Hall Borstal which evolved into the current Littlehey prison.

Although the Grade II* mansion was sold, the stable block, coach house and part of the grounds were retained and used for farming and gardening training for the inmates - but fell into disrepair once the unit closed.

A heritage report from the ministry said: “The proposal seeks consent for remedial works to ensure the long-term retention of the Heritage assets and to return the buildings to a suitable condition for short-term mothballing until a future viable, sustainable and appropriate use can be found.

“The buildings are to be made watertight with new roof finishes and repaired/replaced doors and windows whilst maintaining adequate ventilation to enable the structure to dry out and the structural elements both timber and masonry to be repaired as necessary.”

Council planners said in their report: “The proposed works are considered to be pivotal for the buildings and the whilst the detailed scope of the works will only be available when works commence on site, phrases such as repair/replace are understandably vague however for the purposes of listed building consent they are ambiguous, therefore a number of conditions will be required to enable the applicant to provide greater detail at a later date.

“The buildings have been vacant for a number of years and are now in a poor condition, roofs have failed and there is dry rot within the cottages. In addition, it is considered that rebuilding some of the brickwork walls will be required where the truss has failed. The works to the roofs are extensive and will result in the loss of large areas or historic fabric, whilst the loss of historic fabric is unfortunate it is considered to be unavoidable due to the condition of the buildings.”