INDUSTRY COMMENT: CATESBY ESTATES PLANNING APPROVAL

Darley Eco-House

INDUSTRY COMMENT: CATESBY ESTATES PLANNING APPROVAL

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On Thursday last week (14th March) Catesby Estates announced that their application to the Court of Appeal had been successful and that planning approval for 400 new homes off Kedleston Road, Allestree, Derby had been reinstated.

A previous decision in the High Court had stated that the planning inspector in the original appeal had adopted an unlawfully narrow approach to the setting of heritage assets.

However, in this latest ruling the three Lord Justices did not agree with that conclusion and allowed the appeal, confirming that the planning inspector’s, ‘approach cannot be faulted, and his conclusions were well within the limits of lawful planning judgment’.

The site in question is farmland, about 1.7 kilometres to the south-east of Kedleston Hall, which is a grade I listed building, and about 550 metres from the grade I listed Kedleston Hall registered park and garden and the Kedleston Conservation Area. About 1.5 kilometres to the north of the site are the grade II* listed Kedleston Hotel and the Quarndon Conservation Area. The site itself was part of the manorial land owned by Sir Nathaniel Curzon, the first Lord Scarsdale, when, in 1761, he set about reconstructing his house and laying out the park.

The Hall is widely acknowledged to be of exceptional historic and architectural interest. It is described by Pevsner as, ‘one of the most magnificent apartments of the C18 in England’ and ‘the most splendid Georgian house in Derbyshire, in extensive grounds’. The park was largely the creation of the architect Robert

Adam. Both the Hall and the park are now managed by the National Trust and attract many visitors.

Several objectors, including Historic England and ‘Kedleston Voice’ (a local action group), maintained that the appeal site lay within the settings of both Kedleston Hall and Kedleston Park, largely because of the historic connections between the hall and park and the farmland within the surrounding estate. In refusing planning permission initially, the council (Amber Valley Borough Council) asserted that the proposed development would harm the settings and significance of several heritage assets, including Kedleston Hall.

The original refusal was appealed and following a two-week Public Inquiry the Inspector found that planning permission should be allowed. This was then challenged in the High Court, and planning permission overturned. The matter then went before the Court of Appeal where the Lord Justice’s decision was clear that the planning inspectors’ conclusions in relation to this matter were ‘unassailable’.

In their conclusion The Lord Justice’s sets out that;

‘His conclusions [the Planning Inspector] on the settings of the Kedleston Hotel as a listed building and of the Quarndon Conservation Area, though informed by the relevant historical considerations, depended mainly on the visual – the “views” to which he referred (in paragraphs 39 and 40). Those conclusions are not vulnerable in a legal challenge. Nor do they reveal a mistaken approach to the setting of Kedleston Hall. Here again, the circumstances were different. The fact that there was, as the inspector observed (in paragraph 39), a “close historic relationship between the Hotel and the Hall and Park” does not mean that there was any such relationship between the hotel and the farmland where the appeal site lay.

The same may also be said of the Quarndon Conservation Area – “drawn tightly round the historic core of the village”, as the inspector put it (in paragraph 40). These conclusions, and his finding (in paragraphs 60 and 61) that neither the setting of the listed hotel nor that of the conservation area would be harmed by the development, reveal no error of law. They do not suggest that he misunderstood the concept of the setting of a heritage asset. What they do show is that his approach was both consistent and correct.’

What is clear is that large scale development in historic or sensitive settings is contentious and can be open to subjective interpretation. In this case the Court of Appeal Justices’ found that the Inspector had not erred in his assessment of the circumstances but that he had mainly depended on ‘the visual’.

In our experience at Rural Solutions dealing with development in sensitive locations, be they of an historic, ecological, landscape or other nature, the impacts of that development can be open to interpretation. It is, therefore, always our practice to take a very robust evidence-based approach to these forms of development, respecting the surroundings and circumstance but allowing for appropriately sensitive development in rural and countryside locations.

What this decision by the Court of Appeal shows is that it is possible to undertake development within sensitive surroundings, but that it is important to fully address and assess the impacts of that development taking account of national planning policy.    

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