High Court blocks plans to redevelop Grade I listed mansion site with up to 250 homes

Plans to build hundreds of new homes in the grounds of a 17th-century Grade I listed mansion in the Hampshire countryside have been blocked by a High Court judge, who backed an inspector's rejections of the proposals on grounds that included harm to the area's character and appearance.

Bramshill House, Hampshire. Pic: Andrew Smith
Bramshill House, Hampshire. Pic: Andrew Smith

Bramshill House is a Jacobean mansion that stands at the heart of a 106-hectare site and has been owned since 2015 by City and Country Bramshill Limited.

Up until its purchase by the developer, which specialises in developing historic and heritage sites, the site served as a national police college.

The company has put forward an array of proposals for the mansion's future use, the demolition or re-use of existing buildings and for construction of up to 249 homes in the grounds.

It argued that its plans for the site would have the benefit of removing "inappropriate" modern buildings erected after the mansion became a police college in the 1950s.

Other vacant buildings would be put to good use and the housing development would cross-subsidise restoration of the mansion and other heritage assets.

Any loss of natural green spaces arising from the development would be compensated for elsewhere, the company said.

But its plans met stiff resistance from Hart District Council, which refused various applications for planning permission.

According to last week's High Court judgment, the firm lodged seven planning applications to redevelop the site, three of which proposed building between 235 and 249 homes on the site. Others proposed converting the mansion into 16 apartments, a single dwelling and B1 office space.

City and Country mounted numerous appeals to a government planning inspector, but came away disappointed in January this year.

The public inquiry involved 26 days of hearing, two site visits and a 78-page decision, but left the company's proposals in tatters.

The inspector granted consent for the mansion's conversion into a single dwelling or for use as office space, but the company's other proposals were rejected.

She concluded that City and Country's house-building plans would be "unsustainable" and "harmful to the character and appearance of the area."

They would also not preserve the special qualities of the mansion and other listed buildings on the site, their settings or the mansion's registered park and garden.

Ruling on City and Country's challenge to that outcome, Mr Justice Waksman rejected claims that the inspector had irrationally misapplied planning policies which discourage development of isolated homes in the countryside.

Amongst other grounds of appeal that fell on fallow ground were arguments that she took a flawed approach to the optimum viable use of the heritage assets and the need for enabling development to promote their preservation.

The only aspect of the company's appeal which succeeded concerned the inspector's conclusion in respect of future use of certain existing residential units on the site. The judge said he would hear further argument on the costs and other consequences of his ruling.

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