Out-Law News | 11 Aug 2014 | 4:19 pm | 1 min. read
Developer The Fairfield Partnership applied to South Norfolk Council for planning permission for a 70-home development in Wymondham in July 2012. When the Council failed to determine the application, the developer appealed. The secretary of state recovered the appeal in March because of the potential impact of the proposals on the setting of Grade I-listed Wymondham Abbey and the result of a recent Court of Appeal case that considered similar issues.
The weight to be given in planning decisions to harm caused to the setting of listed buildings was considered by the Court of Appeal in February, in a case involving Barnwell Manor Wind Energy and East Northamptonshire District Council. The presiding judges in this case decided that the law "requires considerable weight to be given by decision-makers to the desirability of preserving the setting of all listed buildings" and that this duty "applies with particular force if harm would be caused to the setting of a Grade I-listed building, a designated heritage asset of the highest significance".
The Court of Appeal decided that, although the proposed harm caused by the planned construction of temporary wind turbines within two kilometres of a Grade I-listed building was agreed to be "less than substantial", a strong presumption against the grant of planning permission still applied.
In his decision letter (48-page / 458 KB PDF) on the Wymondham appeal, Pickles took the Barnwell Manor judgment into account, deciding that the "less than substantial harm" that would be caused to the setting of Wymondham Abbey under the proposals was "still a level of harm to which considerable weight and importance should be attached".
Pickles attached "substantial weight" to the fact that the proposals would provide a significant number of new homes, including affordable homes, in an area with an acknowledged shortfall of housing. The secretary of state also considered that benefits from proposed hedgerow works and improvements to public access merited "limited weight" in favour of the proposals.
The secretary of state agreed with planning inspector JP Sargent that "addressing a housing shortfall will often involve building outside of the development limits of settlement" and that "the benefit of additional housing would not have been outweighed by the harm to the landscape had that been the only concern with the proposals".
However, dismissing the appeal, Pickles concluded that "the adverse impacts of the development on the setting of the Abbey significantly and demonstrably outweigh not just the benefit of providing further housing where a five year supply of deliverable housing cannot be demonstrated, but the other benefits that he has identified as well."
The developer has the right to challenge the decision in the High Court within six weeks of the date of the secretary of state's decision.