THREE brothers have won the first stage of a legal battle in their claim for more than £100 million in compensation for damage allegedly caused to a stately home by mining subsidence.
Grade I-listed Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham, has the longest country house facade in Europe. It has 365 rooms and covers an enormous area of more than 2.5 acres.
The former seat of the Second Marquess of Rockingham, who was twice Prime Minister, and latterly the Earls Fitzwilliam, stands on what was once one of Britain’s richest coal seams.
Occupied by the military during the Second World War, the mansion – now ‘in a sadly dilapidated state’ but still surrounded by hundreds of acres of parkland – is the property of brothers Paul, Marcus and Giles Newbold.
They are seeking compensation ‘likely to be in excess of £100m’ from the Coal Authority, claiming mining works carried out in the area from the 19th century until about 30 years ago have caused ‘extensive subsidence damage’ over the past decade.
But the authority is disputing the claims and at London’s Upper Tribunal argued ‘damage notices’ issued against it in February 2007 and August 2009 were invalid.
Nicholas Baatz QC, for the Coal Authority, claimed the notices were not worth the paper they were written on because they were issued in the name of Paul Newbold alone, rather than by all three brothers as freehold owners of the stately home since 2005.
The barrister also claimed the notices failed to give ‘prescribed particulars’ demanded by the Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991.
But, ruling in favour of the Newbold brothers, tribunal judge George Bartlett QC said: “I conclude the Authority’s contention that the notices were invalid must fail. That is sufficient to dispose of the authority’s case.”
The case will now go ahead for a full hearing, at which it will be up to the brothers to prove the £100m-plus bill for ‘remedial works’ needed to restore Wentworth Woodhouse can be laid at the door of the Coal Authority.
Giles Newbold said: “We are pleased we are able to take our case further so we can secure the regeneration and long-term future of this magnificent part of the nation’s heritage.”