Prime suspect: Helen Mirren's shack falls foul of the rules


Prime suspect: Helen Mirren's shack falls foul of the rules

Mirren and her husband irk planning authorities in southern Italy for the second time

Josephine McKenna

Actress Helen Mirren’s dreams of a tumbledown beachside retreat near her luxury estate in southern Italy have hit a stumbling block as police halted construction amid claims she breached building regulations.
The Academy Award-winning actress and Taylor Hackford, her husband and Hollywood director, bought the crumbling stone shack with spectacular views of the Adriatic in December 2017 with a dream of converting it into a seaside refuge.
But she appears to have fallen foul of local planners for the second time, with police accusing her of “disfiguring the natural beauty” of the surrounding area by adding a new restraining wall.
Construction has stopped on the property, located at Torre Nasparo, which is surrounded by national park in the southern region of Puglia. Prosecutors have opened an investigation.
“This has struck Dame Helen like a bolt from the blue, she never expected this,” said her lawyer Pietro Nuccio. “She fell in love with this location because it was in ruins and she wanted to save it.”
The couple were planning to spend up to €300,000 to restore the house, which is close to the estate they bought 12 years ago, and use it as a seaside getaway.
Provincial police are looking into allegations including illegal construction, disfiguring the natural beauty of the area and carrying out renovation works without the appropriate permits, according to local reports.
They claim dry stone walls have been replaced by cement and the walls are higher than acceptable.
“If laws have not been respected we will find a solution. If there is a small violation it can be solved. There is no damage to the natural beauty,” said Nuccio.
It is not the first time Mirren has clashed with planning authorities in Puglia. In 2012, she became embroiled in a dispute with Anna de Giovanni, her neighbour, after she and her husband sought permission to renovate their once-abandoned farmhouse near Tiggiano in southern Puglia.
They were not accused of any wrongdoing, but were understood to have faced questioning. The argument was described by Mirren’s lawyer as “very petty” and a “complete waste of time”.
Nuccio said the actress had restored her Puglia estate “stone by stone” using old techniques and natural materials. She had also planted 400 pomegranate trees and loved cultivating the land herself.
In August 2017, Mirren was lauded by locals after she lent her support to a campaign to halt a deadly bacteria that was affecting hundreds of thousands of olive trees.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited

This article is reserved for Times Select subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Times Select content.

Times Select

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email or call 0860 52 52 00.