Benefit of new homes greater than loss of heritage asset

An inspector has allowed the loss of a listed Victorian reservoir in a scheme for seven houses at a water pumping station site in Wiltshire, finding that the less than substantial harm caused by the loss of the heritage asset was outweighed by the public benefits of the new homes. The appeal scheme comprised the conversion of a listed pumphouse to two dwellings, the demolition of the reservoir to create two dwellings and the demolition of a former dwelling at the site to create a terrace of three dwellings.

200-009-563 (Image Credit: Nest Homes)
200-009-563 (Image Credit: Nest Homes)

The only issue of contention in the proposal was the demolition of the reservoir, a grassy mound consisting of three-barrel vaults over six metres deep in total. Despite the fact that there were only a few surviving examples of reservoirs with associated pumphouses, the inspector held this one had reduced significance because the original brick walls had been painted internally and its association with the listed pumphouse at the site was not that legible and not as great as the council and various heritage bodies suggested. The inspector did conclude, however, that the loss of the reservoir would lead to less than substantial harm to the heritage asset as a whole.

The inspector noted that the council and various historic societies who had commented on the proposal thought that greater efforts should have been made to exhaust all possibilities for saving the reservoir before its demolition was allowed, whereas the appellant’s position was that there was no sensible possible after-use. The appellants had costed out a possible dwelling conversion scheme and found it not to be viable. The inspector agreed and opined the conversion of the reservoir into a dwelling, on its own, was not a realistic proposition. The best-case scenario was, in his view, that the reservoir was left but filled in, but given its historic legacy was mostly dependant on its internal character, he felt it would be left only as a mute reminder of the previous use of the site. 

In the heritage balance the inspector concluded that the provision of seven houses in an area without an up-to-date housing land supply was a significant public benefit. The future of the pumphouse, which was the main heritage asset on the site, would also be secured and brought into beneficial use. In his view these benefits outweighed the less than substantial harm arising from the loss of the reservoir, as this was in his view inevitable, and securing a continued future for the pumphouse was of far greater importance. 

Inspector: Simon Hand; Hearing

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