In Focus - Film shoots in historic house contrary to strategy

The continued use of parts of a grade II* listed terrace house in central London as an art gallery and for film shoots has been rejected after an inspector decided it would harm housing supply and disturb neighbours.

Listed house: inspector decided its use as film set would hit housing supply. Westminster City Council photo
Listed house: inspector decided its use as film set would hit housing supply. Westminster City Council photo

The unauthorised uses had been subject to an enforcement notice that had been continually breached. The local authority had subsequently obtained a High Court injunction prohibiting use of the building for commercial purposes without the grant of express planning permission. Its core strategy indicated that residential use was the priority across its area and that all residential uses, floorspace and land would be protected.

The operator now sought planning permission to use the house as an art gallery for 30 days a year and as a film and photography location for 21 days a year. The appellant maintained that the building was of great importance to the film and photography profession and that it had a special association with making films, including featuring as a location for The King's Speech.

The inspector noted that annex 2 of Planning Policy Statement 5 defines "historic interest" as an association with past lives and events, and also recognises that heritage assets can provide an emotional meaning for communities derived from their collective experience of a place. She acknowledged that the building's interior was recognisable from films and videos. But she pointed out that this function could have been fulfilled by other historic interiors.

She did not consider that there were any exceptional circumstances that would justify a departure from the council's policy. She noted that both proposals would cause a loss of residential floorspace for part of each year at the very least, which would harm the supply of housing in the area. She also decided that the comings and goings of people associated with filming and photographic activities up to 11pm and the escape and transmission of noise would be unacceptably disturbing to nearby residents.

Inspector: Joanna Reid; Hearing

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