There was no dispute between the parties that the existing building, with its Edwardian frontage, made a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the street and the conservation area. In accordance with PPG15, the inspector held that its demolition needed to be assessed against the same broad criteria as proposals to demolish listed buildings.
She acknowledged that the building's internal layout was very poorly suited to modern-day requirements, with access to various areas being through other rooms or narrow, dark corridors and staircases with no access or facilities for disabled people. Proper and safe means of escape in the event of a fire was also severely compromised by the building's layout, she added.
The inspector concluded that reuse of the building in its current form for the purposes proposed would be wholly unrealistic. In assessing the alternative proposal for the site, she considered that the recessed siting and uncharacteristic design of the replacement building would not reflect its setting and would undermine the historic and architectural character of the conservation area.
She went on to compare the proposal against an approved scheme retaining the front portion of the building. The appellant argued that this scheme was uneconomic and that it would function less satisfactorily than the new-build project. The inspector accepted that the proposed development would bring undoubted benefits in that the church would be able to consolidate and expand its activities on the appeal site.
On balance, however, she concluded that these benefits did not outweigh the harm to the character and appearance of the conservation area. She ruled that this applied particularly with regard to the approved scheme, which provided much of the accommodation sought but allowed for retention of the important frontage.
DCS No: 32544108; Inspector: Jennifer Vyse; Written representations.