PLT Masthead 430

Masthead Housing - Planning

Judge upholds demolition of rectory and replacement with modern home

A High Court judge has upheld a decision by a council’s development committee to approve plans to demolish a rectory and replace it with a modern home.

The case of North Norfolk Planning Watch Ltd, R (on the application of) v McIntyre & Thrower [2017] EWHC 3345 concerned the fate of Blakeney New Rectory in Blakeney, Norfolk.

Planning permission for the demolition of the building and the erection of a replacement dwelling was granted on 20 January 2017 following a resolution of North Norfolk District Council’s Development Committee taken at a meeting on 19 January.

The claimant, North Norfolk Planning Watch Ltd CIC describes itself as a company formed by residents of the Glaven Valley to channel their concerns about the manner in which the council has handled applications for planning permission for developments within and around the Glaven Valley and Blakeney Conservation Areas and the North Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The clamant argued that the grant of planning permission was unlawful for the following reasons:

  1. The use of an incorrect application form deprived the council of the necessary jurisdiction to permit the New Rectory's demolition.
  2. The committee had been provided with insufficient information to enable it properly to consider whether the demolition of the New Rectory was justified.
  3. Inadequate consideration had been given to the issue of local listing raised by objectors.
  4. In giving approval to the use of "Corten" steel on the replacement building the defendant had failed to consider the preservation or enhancement of the Conservation Area as required by section 66 and 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.

Martin Rodger QC, sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court, dismissed the claim. He found that:

  • He was quite satisfied that the form completed by Mr Hudson [the applicants’ architect] was a form to the same effect as the form required by the defendant (and by article 7 [of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015]) where a proposal involved demolition of an unlisted building in a conservation area. "Any procedural legitimate expectation which may have existed in the mind of someone who had carefully picked their way through the relevant websites to discover the appropriate forms and their associated notes was therefore satisfied.
  • The committee was appropriately informed by the officers' report concerning the condition of the New Rectory. “More importantly, members were in a position to appreciate that condition for themselves at their own site visit and to determine what contribution the non-listed building made to the setting of the listed buildings and to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area as a whole. Armed with that material it was for them to undertake the balanced assessment required.”
  • None of the limbs of ground 3 was sustainable. “The members of the Committee were well able to make a properly informed determination of the proposal, to disagree if they wished with the officers' view that the building was not of such merit as to require to be retained, and to reach the balanced judgment required by EN8 and by NPPF paragraph 135 (had they taken the view it should be regarded as a non-designated heritage asset).”
  • A complaint that the committee had been misled or improperly briefed on the use of Corten steel was unfounded. The judge was unable also to accept the claimant’s submissions that the use of Corten steel was untried and untested in the council’s area and the particular concern over its long term weathering properties in that location had not been addressed. Both the committee and the officers were aware that this was a coastal location and the discussion of the suitability of the material and its weathering properties took place against that informed background. “Officers were entitled to form the view that they did and to advise the committee that the material weathered well.”

Cllr Sue Arnold, North Norfolk's Cabinet portfolio holder for Planning, said: “The ruling of the High Court is welcome news, and we are pleased that the decision to demolish Blakeney New Rectory, carefully considered by the council’s Development Committee, has been ruled to have been properly taken in a court of law.

"The rectory is neither listed nor a heritage asset. Following this decision, the owners can now begin to create a new home using both traditional and contemporary materials.

"The Development Committee considers all planning applications according to relevant information presented to it by professional planning officers and is a democratic process whereby members of the public are able to have their say. Court action is regrettable, but in this case, it has enabled the council to successfully defend its decision=making process.”

Cllr Arnold added: “The High Court has recognised the fairness of the process adopted by North Norfolk District Council, which is both robust and democratic and has endorsed the correctness of the Development Committee’s decision. NNDC recognises the public’s right to respond and for close scrutiny of its decision-making process, but it is disappointing that this action, brought by North Norfolk Planning Watch, has ultimately resulted in additional and unnecessary costs to local tax payers."


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