An attempt by campaigners to prevent the demolition of a neo-Georgian building by creating a conservation area was recently defeated, following a challenge by the property company that wished to develop the site.
The council failed to prevent the demolition order when English Heritage refused to list the building and the local planning authority (LPA) failed to designate the property as being of local interest.
Undaunted, those campaigning for its retention persuaded the LPA to designate the area in which the building stood as a conservation area. To demolish a building in a conservation area, planning consent is needed.
By this time, the developer’s plans were already well advanced and he was not therefore consulted by the LPA, which wanted to reach a speedy decision. As a result, he challenged the decision on the grounds that no consultation process had taken place. Also, there were several errors in the planning officer’s report and the decision to designate the land as a conservation area had been taken with erroneous and immaterial matters given undue weight and material matters given insufficient weight.
The court ruled that given the time pressure on the LPA, the decision not to consult was reasonable. However, the basis on which the decision was made was sufficiently flawed to mean it should be quashed.