High Court Scotches Housing Development Close to Historic Manor House

Britain glories in its listed buildings and other heritage assets and planning policies require that great weight be given to their preservation. The High Court made that point in scotching a proposal to build 73 new homes on a site adjacent to a 13th century moated manor house.

Despite fierce objections from local residents and the area's MP, a planning officer wholeheartedly recommended in two reports that planning consent for the proposal be granted. Pointing to the public benefits of the development, he stated that some harm to the setting of the Grade II* listed manor house was inevitable but that it would be less than substantial. After councillors conducted a site visit, the local authority granted planning permission.

Upholding a local resident's judicial review challenge to the permission, however, the Court noted that planning policies require that local authorities give considerable weight and importance to the conservation of heritage assets. Great weight is applied against developments that will cause harm to listed buildings or their settings and such projects require clear and convincing justification.

The officer's reports seriously misled councillors as to the extent of protection given to heritage assets and his view that the proposal would cause less than substantial harm to the manor house's setting did not mean that councillors were entitled to give that factor less than substantial consideration. Given the extent of opposition to the proposal, councillors might have reached a different conclusion had they been properly advised. The planning permission was quashed.