A GRADE II listed house destroyed in an arson attack can be rebuilt – despite objections from Swindon Borough Council.

The new owner of Brook House in The Pitchens, Wroughton, had applied for permission to rebuild the historic cottage which was gutted in March 2019 when a fire caused £500,000 worth of damage.

The owners at the time were inside the house when it was set ablaze and have since sold the building and moved away.

New owner Antony Sofroniou submitted plans which would have seen the main part of the house rebuilt with a thatched roof, but the smaller part – and the part where the fire was started – having a clay tiled roof.

The council’s conservation officer had recommended members of the authority’s planning committee refuse the application. Their report said the building had been listed with a thatched roof and the supposed lesser fire risk of a tiled roof did not justify changing it.

But Nigel Henham of Thames Architecture and ward councillors told the committee that was an inaccurate view of the building.

Mr Henham, acting for Mr Sofroniou, said: "The building was originally two separate buildings.

"The larger one had a thatched roof and the smaller one – when built 200 years ago – had a tiled roof. They were combined in the late 1960s and that’s when the thatch was added to the roof of the smaller one. That’s when it was listed.

“The fire is an opportunity to rebuild and return the buildings to the original state before the roof was changed.”

Wroughton councillor Brian Ford said: “The thatch overhang made it easy for someone to pour lighter fluid on the roof and set it alight and it’s right by the path.”

He said it would be much better to have the building rebuilt and in use than a burned-out shell blighting the local conservation area.

Mr Henham added that when the fire was set, the difficulty of access for fire engines, and training hoses on the roof meant the fire fighters had no choice but to push the burning roof into the shell of the building to stop it spreading.

He said: “My client wants to bring the building back into use as a family home.

The plans were approved by 12 votes to two.

Afterwards Mr Henham said: “We are extremely pleased, and it is a tribute to the hard work done by my client to bring this listed building back into use.”

A Swindon boy, now 17 but 15 years old at the time, this week admitted starting the fire last March.

Appearing before Swindon Crown Court, the teenager, who cannot be identified as he is under 18, pleaded guilty to a single count of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Barrister Jason Coulter, appearing for the youngster, asked the judge to order a pre-sentence report from Swindon Borough Council’s youth offending team.

He said of his client: “This is a 15-year-old lad far too enamoured with the rather dramatic pyrotechnic effect of an aerosol can and lighter.”

Bailing the youth to return to Swindon Crown Court on December 7 for sentence, Judge Peter Crabtree said: “This is a serious offence as you will appreciate and as you pleaded guilty to it you will get credit from me for that. But the starting point is custody.”