Inspector 'fell into error' in considering aspects of listed manor house changes separately, judge rules

A planning inspector's objection to proposed alterations to a historic country house has been quashed in the High Court, after a judge ruled that the official should not have treated different proposed works separately when concluding that some had no public benefit.

Great Mitton Hall and adjacent All Hallows Church - image: © Alexander Kapp / geograph (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Great Mitton Hall and adjacent All Hallows Church - image: © Alexander Kapp / geograph (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Owner Kenneth Kay is seeking to erect a single-storey extension and to repaint a rendered gable at his home, Great Mitton Hall near Clitheroe, Lancashire, which is grade II listed.

In July 2018, Ribble Valley Borough Council refused planning permission and listed building consent for those and other proposed works. Kay's subsequent appeal to a planning inspector partially succeeded in October last year.

Granting planning consent for the removal of an unoriginal pointed arch doorway and its replacement by a window, the inspector said that would positively benefit the architectural and historic interest of the hall. He also granted permission for Kay to reconfigure his patio and to replace some over-ornate railings with more restrained ironwork.

But the inspector refused consent for the extension, saying it would "detract from and harm" the hall's historic and architectural interest.

Kay had also said that "toning down" the brilliant white gable by repainting it in a stone colour would also benefit the hall and the setting of All Hallows. But in refusing consent for the colour change, the inspector said: "White is the traditional colour for painted render and the gable does not need to be 'tonally balanced' with the [adjacent grade I listed] church."

The inspector concluded: "The harm that would be caused to the listed building by the new extension and the re-painting of the gable would be less than substantial, but there are no public benefits to be weighed against the harm caused."

Kay's High Court challenge to the inspector's decision focused on the last few words of that sentence. The simplification of the railings and the removal of the arch doorway should, he argued, have been recognised as public benefits and placed by the inspector in the overall planning balance.

Ruling on the case, Mr Justice Dove said that, after properly considering the merits of the proposed works as a whole, it was open to the inspector to grant a partial planning permission, authorising some of the works but not others.

But he concluded: "Where the inspector fell into error... is that having concluded that the proposals gave rise to less than substantial harm as a result of his findings in respect of two of the proposed works, he went on to contend that there were no public benefits to be weighed against any of the harm caused.

"This was inconsistent with his earlier finding that there would be improvements to the architectural and historic interest of the building as a result of one of the elements of the proposal, and which gave rise to public benefits which ought to have been taken into account.

"If the inspector was, as I consider he was, assessing the works comprised in the proposal collectively, then he left out of account the public benefit from at least one of the works comprised in the proposal."

The inspector's decision was quashed, with the result that the secretary of state must now reconsider Kay's appeal.

R on the Application of Kay v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Case Number: CO/16/2020

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