Apology after councillor is told historic ruin should have TV licence

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TV LICENSING officials have admitted making a blunder after sending out an enforcement letter to a 400-year-old derelict building in Whitehouse.

The letter addressed to 32 Whitehouse Park - the site of Newtownabbey’s oldest and most historic building - warns that the legal occupier of the property could face a fine of up to £1,000 for failing to pay for a television licence.

The White House, which has been standing for more than four centuries, has been a ruin for many years. It is currently being restored by the White House Preservation Trust, but doesn’t have a TV and only got an electricity supply connected a matter of weeks ago.

“I received a threatening letter telling me what I would need to do if I was taken to court for not having a TV licence. I received this letter as Chair of the White House Preservation Trust,” councillor Billy Webb told the Times.

“Because the building doesn’t have a TV, indeed an electricity supply was only connected a few weeks ago, there is no need for a TV licence.

“This letter goes on to tell me that I can appoint a lawyer to appear in court for me and the court has the power to impose a fine of up to £1,000.”

Questioning the tactics being used by TV Licensing’s enforcement section, the Alliance representative added: “I dread to think the shock an intimidating letter like this would cause some elderly person who, like the White House, does not have a TV, and I ask, what happened about ‘presumed innocent until proved guilty’? The TV licensing authority would seem now to apply the principle that if you do not have a licence you are breaking the law.

“If anyone else has received a letter like this, and they do not have a TV, I would encourage them to mark the letter with ‘NO TV’, put it in an envelope and send it back without a stamp to TV Licensing - that’s what I did.”

Apologising for the mistake, a spokesperson for TV Licensing said: “We have a database of over 30 million addresses which we use to ensure properties are correctly licensed. We update this constantly based on information received from a number of sources including the Royal Mail and our customers. The address in question has been removed and we can confirm that no more correspondence will be sent there. We apologise for the inconvenience caused to Mr Webb.”

The White House, which stands on the foreshore of Belfast Lough near Gideon’s Green, is generally recognised as one of Ireland’s oldest and most important buildings. It is first shown on a map dating back to 1569 and was visited by William of Orange after his army landed at Carrickfergus in June 1690.