Piers and urns judged to fall within list definition

A listed building enforcement notice requiring reinstatement of historic artefacts at a property in Warwickshire has been upheld by the High Court.

The pairs of early 18th century piers and urns had originally been sited at a house in Bedfordshire but were moved in the 1970s to the claimant’s property at Idlicote House. The main house was grade II listed in 1966 and English Heritage added the urns and piers to the statutory list in 1986. In 2009, the items were sold at auction and apparently exported from the UK. On becoming aware that they were listed, the owner applied retrospectively for consent for their removal. This was refused and the council issued an enforcement notice requiring their reinstatement.

Earlier this year an appeal inspector (DCS Number 400-014-158) concluded that he had no authority to look behind the listing and determined that the piers and urns fell within the definition of a building under section 336(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, even though when originally created they were chattels and capable of being moved.

The inspector held that their size, nature and degree of attachment to the ground were not relevant in determining whether they were listed buildings for the purposes of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Area) Act 1990. The appellant had produced no technical evidence disputing their architectural and historic importance, he noted. He upheld the notice and refused to grant listed building consent.

In rejecting a challenge to the inspector’s decision, Mr Justice Singh found no error in law. Parliament had not intended that appellants could raise the validity of a listing as a defence, he held. The power to list or delist a building was conferred on the secretary of state and inspectors had no power to delist a building during the appeal process, he found. The issue of whether the gates and urns were structures or erections had been considered at the time they were added to the statutory list, he reasoned.

On that basis, the judge held that the inspector had been right to conclude that whether they were also chattels was not a relevant consideration. It was not a matter for the court to substitute its own judgement on the inspector’s consideration of their architectural and historic merits, he found. The inspector had before him advice from Historic England and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings providing information on why they were included on the statutory list, he noted.

Dill v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Stratford-on-Avon District Council

Date: 28 September 2017

Ref: [2017] EWHC 2378 (Admin)

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