20 Sep Heritage fakers make news
With so much criticism of newspapers in relation to fake news, we thought it might be appropriate to praise The Sunday Times for their own investigative journalism from 10 years ago which unearthed the heritage fakers who were ransoming developers for cash.
In 2007 Sunday Times journalists reported on the activities of the Euston Trust who were then objecting to developments on heritage grounds around the UK, in the hope that they would be offered money to withdraw the objections.
The Euston Trust was an unincorporated and unregulated body run from a London council house by a convicted fraudster whose public mission was to protect Britain’s architectural heritage. It aimed far and wide and notably objected to the redevelopment of Smithfield Market and Kings Cross train station.
Their cache was to find irrelevant heritage or architectural issues and blow them out of all proportion creating a huge storm about the item concerned. They even drew praise for their heritage arguments, from The Prince of Wales who was drawn into a debate over heritage claims at Bishopsgate goods yard.
They used different persona to object, from members of the clergy to well known figures in animal action groups, to generate media coverage and unnerve officers.
Not only was the group trading, using the name of a reputable business, but also as and when appropriate they were changing their names to object to a wide range of schemes.
In 2005 they focused on a development in Weston Super Mare, where once again they pressured developers that unless plans were changed to such an extent the commercial that value was lost, they would face a Judicial Review.
North Somerset Council were put under extreme pressure to refuse the scheme and with the threat of a Judicial Review already mentioned, expended considerably more man hours than would normally have been required, checking and rechecking procedure etc.
At a meeting with the Trust where officers were present, financial remuneration was mentioned as a way of mitigating loss. The Sunday Times reported this to be in the order of £30,000.
The group had taken the concept of a property ransom to a fraudulent low, where no actually no loss was incurred and the injured parties had no interest in the scheme at all.