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Judge rejects appeal over refusal of planning permission for demolition of Victorian villa in conservation area and subsequent development

A Planning Court judge has dismissed a developer's claim for statutory review after an inspector dismissed its appeal against the refusal by a district council of planning permission for the demolition of a Victorian villa in a conservation area.

The case of Spitfire Bespoke Homes Ltd v Secretary of State for Housing Communities And Local Government [2020] EWHC 958 involved a claim for statutory review under s.288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Warwick District Council had refused planning permission for "demolition of all existing buildings on site (with exception of existing substation) and the development of two detached dwelling houses and six apartments … together with access from Northumberland Road and associated engineering" on land in Leamington Spa.

The villa is a non-designated heritage asset.

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The claimant's primary contention was that the inspector erred in his application of s.72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, ("LBCAA") which required him to "pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of [the conservation area]".

"Preserving" in this context meant "doing no harm to": South Lakeland District Council v Secretary of State for the Environment [1992] 2AC 141 per Lord Bridge at 150A-G, Mrs Justice Andrews said.

There was also a separate complaint of procedural unfairness, which related to a separate issue on which the inspector made a finding against the claimant, namely, non-compliance with the council's supplementary planning document on residential amenity.

This was not a matter that had originally been relied on, but it was raised in the council's Written Statement on the appeal and responded to by the claimant in a rebuttal document before the inspector considered the appeal.

Mrs Justice Andrews considered that there was no merit in either of those grounds of complaint, and that the claim must therefore be dismissed.

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