It is a fundamental tenet of planning policy that developments should not harm an area’s character and appearance. In a prime example of that policy in operation, the High Court scotched a proposal to erect a large and lavish new home on part of a landed country estate.
The applicant for permission proposed demolition of two dilapidated cottages and their replacement with a two-storey, four-bedroom home on open grassland nearby. The house was to be fitted with raised chimney stacks, Georgian-style windows and a Doric-style entrance complete with a Renaissance-type baluster and gable.
In refusing planning consent for the project, however, the local authority emphasised the intrinsic value of the area’s rural character. Harm caused by the development, it said, would be exacerbated by the lavish character and scale of the house, which would little resemble the simple cottages that it was intended to replace.
In rejecting the applicant’s appeal against that refusal, a planning inspector agreed with the council that the proposal would harm the area’s character and appearance. Although the house would be built of locally appropriate materials, the inspector commented on its significant scale and mass when compared to other properties on the estate.
Challenging that outcome, the applicant argued that the inspector failed to give sufficient weight to a planning permission granted by the council in 2008. That consent authorised demolition of the cottages and their replacement with two new residential units. Those plans were said to be indistinguishable in planning terms from the applicant’s more recent proposal.
Ruling on the matter, the Court acknowledged that, in the intervening period, there had been no significant change in relevant development plan policies. The applicant had good reason to claim for her plans the same locational and highway safety benefits that applied to the 2008 proposal.
In rejecting her case, however, the judge ruled that there was no inconsistency in the inspector’s decision. The 2008 permission was in outline form only and was subject to approval of detailed particulars of the replacement buildings’ siting, design and external appearance. Such particulars were, in the event, never submitted for approval and the permission had long since lapsed.
The 2008 permission was of little relevance to the inspector’s consideration of whether the building actually proposed by the applicant would be in keeping with the area’s character and appearance. The inspector was plainly entitled to take the view that the 2008 permission offered her no assistance in resolving the main, determinative issue in the planning appeal.