BASILDON Council says it is powerless to take action against developers which ripped the roof off a centuryold landmark without permission.

Elizabeth Cottage, in Billericay High Street, has now been open to the elements for more than six months after its owners tried to demolish the building.

The work was halted after Basildon Council went to court and obtained a civil injunction barring demolition work.

However, the court order ran out this week and while officials are looking into the options, they fear there is little they can do to save the house.

Council leader Phil Turner, who represents Billericay West ward, said: “I know officers have been looking at what can be done now, but this is where the lawmakes us impotent.

“Residents will, no doubt, be devastated about what has happened, but I want them to know we try our best to preserve the heritage of Billericay.

“The rain will have had a dramatic effect on Elizabeth Cottage, but unfortunately, we can’t force the owners to put the roof back on.”

Town councillors Ian Davie, who chairs Billericay Town Council’s planning committee, said urgent action was needed to stop the house becoming damaged beyond repair. He added: “We need to get tarpaulin or something put up, as soon as possible to stop any more rain getting into the building.

“That would give Basildon Council a bit of breathing space to decide what its next move will be, though it has already had a fewmonths to think about that.

“Elizabeth Cottage is a landmark building in a prominent position, and I’ve had a lot of comments from residents about the state it’s in.”

It is understood the council has found it hard to contact the four people who jointly own Elizabeth Cottage, as they live abroad.

The building is in the town’s conservation area, but has stood empty for many years. It was last a family home 40 years ago.

Neil Costen, Basildon Council’s planning enforcement manager, said: “We are now assessing our options and the council will determine how best to ensure compliance is achieved. We are unable to comment any further, as this is an operational matter.”