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Old Rectory Makes Way for Modernist Home – High Court Ruling

Conservationists and fans of modern architecture do not always see eye to eye but both have valid points of view that can be finely balanced. That was certainly so in one case in which the High Court opened the way for demolition of a former rectory and its replacement by a striking, but controversial, contemporary home.

The rectory, built in 1925, was situated within a conservation area in a seaside town. A couple had been granted planning consent for the project after purchasing the property from the Church of England. That was on the basis of a planning officer’s report that the rectory was not a building of such merit as to require its retention.

After a local pressure group mounted a judicial review challenge to the permission, the Court accepted that the planning application should have been made on an enhanced online form that was appropriate to proposed demolition works in the conservation area. In dismissing the group’s argument that that error had created unfairness, however, the Court found that the standard form used was to the same effect and provided the council with all the required information.

Councillors had also been properly informed as to the condition of the rectory and, given that it was neither listed nor a designated heritage asset, it had not been necessary to show that it was beyond economic repair before its demolition could be sanctioned. Arguments that the council had failed to adequately consider the possibility of placing the rectory on a local list of protected buildings were also rejected.

The group had in particular objected to proposals to clad the new building’s roof in steel. That material, it was argued, was unsuitable to a coastal location and would harm the character and appearance of the area. However, the Court found that councillors had been informed that the cladding might be considered an alien intrusion and were entitled to form their own view. A planning officer’s report had provided councillors with all the information that they required in order to reach a balanced decision.

R on the Application of North Norfolk Planning Watch Limited v North Norfolk District Council. Case Number: CO/1136/2017

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