Council members failed to apply heritage balance

Permission has been granted for an extension to a school sports centre in a Staffordshire town with no harm to the character and appearance of the adjoining conservation area. A full award of costs was awarded to the appellant in an associated costs appeal.

The appeal site was located just outside a park conservation area. The proposed new sports hall would replace a multi-use games area and a group of single-storey prefabricated buildings.  The inspector noted the council’s conservation area appraisal stated that the existing buildings at the school neither contributed to, nor detracted from, the conservation area. In considering the proposal he held the new sports hall, although tall, would be of a high-quality design using a carefully selected palette of materials and form a complementary, contemporary addition to the conservation area. Along with the re-cladding of the existing sports hall, he concluded the development would materially improve the visual quality of the school site and would not affect the historic or architectural significance of the conservation area.

In the costs appeal decision, the inspector opined that the council members had acted unreasonably in deciding to go against the recommendation of their professional officers. He came to this decision on the basis that no evidence had been submitted with the appeal that showed the members had considered the tests set out in paragraph 196 of the NPPF to assess the nature of the heritage harm and carry out a proper planning balance as to whether any harm identified was outweighed or otherwise by the public benefits of the development.

Inspector: George Baird; Written representations

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