Byron barn battle takes another twist: volunteers vow to assist elderly man with hard labour
An elderly Byron man said he received numerous offers of help to clear away rotting barn rubble from his property, after a London, Ont. city council committee endorsed a recommendation to grant a demolition permit.
The catch, however, is that the work would have to be done by hand to avoid any further potential damage to what’s left of a pile of debris, which some believe could have heritage value.
Eighty-one year old John McLeod told CTV News he was prepared to do the work himself, one rotted and rusty nail-protruding board at a time, but he may not have to anymore.
“I can’t believe the support,” said McLeod, as he circled the large pile of refuse on his property on Halls Mill Road.
The story goes back to the winter of 2019-2020. Then, city council decided to designate the barn for heritage protection.
Amid an ongoing dispute with the city, McLeod would knock down the 130-year-old structure under the cover of darkness, and in defiance of council’s order.
This past Monday, council’s Planning Committee unanimously endorsed a recommendation to grant McLeod a demolition permit to remove the remaining debris, as long as it’s done by hand to prevent further damage to the foundation.
“The cart has gotten ahead of the horse multiple times on this property, and this is how we keep the cart behind the horse,” said Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis at the Planning Committee meeting.
Councillor Anna Hopkins, whose ward the property is located in, said neighbours will want to keep tabs on the work being done.
“The debris will hopefully be removed without machinery,” she explained at the meeting.
Byron resident John McLeod can be seen in front of barn rubble located on his property on Halls Mill Road in London, Ont. on March 24, 2023. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV News London)
But since that time, McLeod said he has been humbled by waves of support from people offering to get their hands dirty, so the octogenarian doesn’t have to himself.
“Never ever thought that so many people would volunteer to help. Just blows me away,” he said.
It’s on the north side that the building’s foundation is most exposed, because it’s built into the side of a steep hill. It appears to have been constructed with numerous types of materials, including at least two different types of stone, as well as brick, all of which appear to be in rapid decay.
According to McLeod, the foundation has no footings, and there’s little actually holding the wall up as it leans precariously over the side of the hill.
McLeod said, this time, he’ll wait until the full council makes a final decision on the permit on April 4, before bringing in reinforcements to clear it all away.
“You look at the crumbling old wall, I have no idea why the heritage planner would ever think they’d want to designate such a thing,” he said incredulously. “What’s the purpose?”
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