Somerset Council has been forced to intervene again to safeguard Rockwell Green’s historic water towers.  The two towers, one of which is a grade II listed building dating to the Victorian period, were purchased by Croydon-based property development firm, AA Homes, in 2013. 

But since taking over the site, AA Homes has faced accusations of neglect and come under fire from heritage groups, residents and councillors.

In March 2020 AA Homes was ordered to remove vegetation and dispose of rubbish which had overtaken the site. 

In January 2023 Somerset Council intervened after Mr Ansari failed to obey the order, leaving the towers under threat from a jungle of weeds. 

Council officials secured the perimeter of the site and cut back the overgrowth before billing AA Homes for the work.  

But just months later the site had again become overgrown with weeds, including Japanese Knot Weed, which can enter cracks in concrete and prise it apart. 

The deteriorated state of the site caused The Victorian Society, a national conservation group, to label the towers among Britain’s “most endangered” historic buildings. 

The group’s president, and well-known comedian, Griff Rhys Jones, described the towers as ‘tremendous titans in the glorious Somerset countryside’ and warned against ‘throwing away our industrial heritage.’ 

But Mr Ansari appears not to have taken heed of the society’s warning – and is now being pursued by Somerset Council’s debt collection team after failing to foot the bill for works the authority carried out at the site.  Amy Kemmish, of Somerset Council’s Heritage at Risk database, confirmed the council was now taking legal action to recover their costs and had issued a fresh demand to carry out works. She said: 

“We have now served a second Section 215 notice at Rockwell Green following a lack of communication from the owner in the last few months. The notice has run out and we discussing how to proceed.

“The debt recovery team continue to chase for the debt owed from the works undertaken by the council on the first notice and some more of the funds have now been secured.” Mr Ansari is no stranger to controversy. He had come under fire from the Victorian Society on a previous occasion over the Leslie Arms pub in London, a grade II listed structure dating to 1850 which is owned by his firm. A spokesperson for the Victorian Society said the building ‘had the wrong owner.’ They said: “Victorian pubs are closing all over the country and it is no surprise that this year there is one on our top ten endangered list. 

“A particularly intractable case, this is a building of great quality where continued pub use should be viable. The right owner is needed!” Flats belonging to the firm were also found to have ‘serious health and safety breaches’ following a 2017 inspection by the London Fire Brigade. These include a locked fire escape and defective fire doors.  Mr Ansari has also hit headlines for his political donations, including a £20,000 payment to London mayor Sadiq Khan, and £25,000 given to Labour MP Yvette Cooper.  Questions were raised in 2010 when then Labour MP Luciana Berger lobbied erstwhile chancellor George Osbourne to cut taxes for property developers. The question came just months after Mr Ansari donated £4,000 to the Liverpool MP.

A spokesperson for AA Homes was approached for comment but did not respond before publication.