Heston in West London is not an area known for its heritage. It was the birthplace of Jimmy Page, but he’s still alive. Most people just know it as a service station on the M4. So when local Hestonians found out that they had a 600-year-old house in their town it is not surprising that they wanted it looked after. Sadly that’s exactly the opposite to what has happened. The Hermitage is in a pitiful state. No roof and experts reckon the walls will fall down if remedial work doesn’t start in the next 18 months.
The Hermitage is, to put it mildly, in the latter stages of decline following years of neglect. In cases like this it’s easy to say something should have been done years ago. It’s also easy to say that the council should sort it all out. The truth is when properties get into this state there are usually very few options left, and most of the options are in the hands of the owner. The cost of renovation will be enormous, the management of restoration will be a nightmare, and the potential for a public pillorying if it all goes wrong - huge. The clock is ticking, and if the only option on the table is imperfect it’s probably still better than doing nothing. Which is why it’s a bit odd that when the owner of the Hermitage proposed to renovate and turn it into a care home, local MP Alan Keen said “We certainly don’t want the council to give planning permission to anyone else to do anything nasty to it. I would like to see it kept and that’s what the residents want, and it’s my duty to support them.” Of course Alan Keen has a bit of history on this subject. His own house in Hounslow is apparently still empty following a debacle with Squatters, Comedian Mark Thomas, and the MP's expenses scandal. It's easy to say what shouldn't happen but in the absence of a better idea that's little better to a death sentence to a house with little time left.