In a ruling last week, the High Court confirmed that two historically important 18th century urns and pedestals warranted listing in their own right.
The items, the work of a well-known sculptor, had stood in the grounds of Idlicote House, near Shipston-on-Stour, since the early 1970s. Its owner, Marcus Dill, removed them and sold them at auction in 2009. He claimed that he was unaware at the time that they had been listed in 1986.
On learning of their removal in 2014, Stratford-on-Avon District Council issued Dill with an enforcement notice requiring him to restore the items to his grounds.
He was refused retrospective listed building consent to remove them and both decisions were subsequently upheld by a planning inspector.
Dill pointed out that the items had been purchased by an anonymous buyer and had probably been exported from the UK. Even if their owner could be traced, he said, he could not be compelled to return them so they could be put back in their original position.
The inspector, however, took the view that retrospectively sanctioning their removal would set a dangerous precedent that could endanger the preservation of other designated heritage assets.
Challenging the inspector’s decision, the owner argued that the items were not ‘buildings’ and had thus been wrongly listed.
In rejecting this and other arguments, the court noted that all sorts of structures - from telephone booths and postboxes to shipyard cranes, statuary and sculpture - appear on the register of listed buildings.
The items had been listed independently from the house and the fact that most people would not view them as buildings was irrelevant, the judge ruled.
He concluded that, given their quality and historic provenance, there was no suggestion that they were unworthy of their protected status and they had not been listed by mistake.
The judge upheld the enforcement notice and rejected Dill’s challenge to the refusal of retrospective listed building consent.
Dill v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Another. Case Number: CO/804/2017