By Gillian Drummond
The owners of a hotel in Cornwall are anxiously awaiting the end of a six-year battle with their local council over renovations that a judge has declared need never have been carried out.
London's Court of Appeal last week ruled that David and Victoria Welton, who have been running the six-bedroom Archer Farm Hotel in Port Isaac for 22 years, should be awarded £34,000 in compensation. But the couple fear the defeated council's insurers will now take the case to the House of Lords.
Mr and Mrs Welton's case dates back to 1990 when Brian Evans, an environmental health officer from North Cornwall District Council, made an unannounced visit to the hotel.
He gave a list of 13 improvements to carry out and said that if they refused, their business would be closed. The renovations included replacing a slate floor with linoleum and fitting additional sinks.
The Weltons carried out the work but began proceedings against the council when they realised the extent of the work.
Last year a Truro County Court judge ruled that 90% of the work had been unnecessary, and the Court of Appeal last week confirmed this judgment.
"It was complete mismanagement. He [Mr Evans] didn't check up on anything and wouldn't put anything in writing to us," said Mr Welton.
In his ruling last week, Lord Justice Judge said the Weltons had been left with no choice but to carry out the work. "[Mr Evans' recommendations] were accompanied by the threat of sanctions, the effect of which would be damaging to the Weltons' business and livelihood," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health stressed that the case happened just as the Food Safety Act 1990 was being introduced. "There was a lot of public concern about hygiene at that time," she said. "Different authorities were applying different rules."
But she added that such problems had now been addressed.
The council's solicitors refused to comment but its insurers, Municipal Mutual Insurance, said that making a further appeal "would be the next logical step".