On 22 June, the Planning Court handed down judgment on a challenge to a Planning Inspector’s decision to grant planning permission for housing development on a site located less than 1km away from Kedleston Hall, a Grade I listed building standing within a Grade I Registered Park and Garden and Conservation Area located to the north-west of Derby.
The appeal site involved land which formed part of the agricultural estate surrounding the Hall and its park. In making the original decision on the application for up to 400 dwellings, the Planning Inspector had originally determined that the site did not fall within the setting of the assets, principally due to a lack of physical and visual connectivity with the Hall as a result of later woodland planting, known as the Derby Screen. The screen had been planted to filter the growth of Allestree (on the north-west edge of Derby) from sight within the park and from the Hall. Whilst recognising that the appeal site had historical, social and economic relationships with the Hall, the Inspector determined that “there has, though, to be more of a physical or visual connection than that, otherwise land completely remote from the Hall could be deemed within its setting”. In making this judgement of what defines setting, the Inspector ignored the advice of GPA 3 which states that these are not the sole “determinative” factors for defining setting.
Thus, the Court agreed with the Claimant and Historic England (which joined as an Interested Party) that the Inspector had “adopted an artificially narrow approach to the issue of setting which treated visual connections as essential and determinative”, and that this had amounted to an error of law.
At paragraph 52, the judgement notes that the views of Historic England, as a statutory consultee, should be given “great” or “considerable” weight, and a departure from those views requires “cogent and compelling reasons”.
At paragraph 64, it confirms the NPPF, PPG and Historic England’s ‘Good Practice Advice in Planning 3: The setting of Heritage Assets’ (‘GPA3’) all support a “broad meaning given to setting”, and that although “a physical or visual connection between a heritage asset and its setting will often exist, it is not essential or determinative”.
Paragraph 67 re-affirms that the NPPF definition of ‘setting’ includes the term ‘surroundings’, and therefore any concerns about remote land being included within the setting of a heritage asset in the absence of a physical or visual connection was “misplaced” because there was “a geographical limitation on the extent of setting”.
The consequences of this judgement are that setting assessments being made to support planning applications should clearly demonstrate that a broad approach has been adopted, and to avoid a challenge of narrowness or extents of setting being defined without robust analysis of how those definitions have been made. Applicants should ensure these points are sufficiently covered not only in their application and appeal documentation but also in planning committee reports.
View the Approved Judgment here