Important new ruling paves the way for Conservation Area clean up
Two appeal decisions have been handed down this week that pave the way for an exciting new development in Norton that will help clean up a neglected corner of its Conservation Area.
Prism has obtained consent for 5 new starter homes at Marmaduke Place on the site of old lock up garages. Prism worked carefully with the owner of the site to bring forward a sensitively designed scheme that made the most of the sites special character. Having initially agreed with the scheme, the Council then effectively changed its mind and refused to approve the scheme, wanting to explore the conversion of an old workshop on the site instead.
In an important ruling, the Inspector noted that the detailed submission on viability made by Prism on the workshop’s conversion contrasted sharply with the lack of contrary evidence put forward by the Council and went on to note that Prism’s approach was consistent with the RICS, BCIS and even English Heritage. He went on to allow the appeal, noting that the gains in the scheme significantly outweighed the loss of the workshop.
In a related appeal he also found that Prism’s interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework in relation to Conservation Areas was correct and found that the Council had wrongly understood and applied the new guidance. In particular, he found that Prism had applied the correct test, weighing up the overall benefits of the scheme and considering the improvements to the Conservation Area as a whole. The Council had taken too narrow an interpretation of the new framework, thinking that its role was to preserve the (non-listed) workshop rather than safeguard and improve the Conservation Area.
Prism had appealed the non determination of both the Planning Application and the Conservation Area Consent, when it became clear that the officers of the Council weren’t applying the right understanding of the new National Planning Framework.
Assessing the viability of new developments is clearly going to be an important new feature of the planning world but it needs to be done in an honest and transparent manner. Councils need to recognise that it’s still a tough world for developers and adopt realistic and sensible stances. All too often it seems that Councils get advised by those who haven’t undertaken development for some time and are out of touch with what’s needed in the present climate. In this case they even attempted to argue that historic conversion work could be undertaken without a contingency budget. Even English Heritage accepts this isn’t a safe way to proceed!
It is a welcome vindication of the hard work of the Prism team and a tribute to the stamina and perseverance of the owner that he kept faith even in difficult times. The NPPF is trying to achieve a step change in the way in which development is considered and hopefully its messages, particularly when translated through appeal decisions will start to change the way in which planning departments consider proposals.