QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON||(CLAIMANT)|
|FIRST SECRETARY OF STATE||(1ST DEFENDANT)|
|LONDON BOROUGH OF CAMDEN||(2ND DEFENDANT)|
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited
190 Fleet Street London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7831 8838
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
MR DAVID FORSDICK (instructed by THE TREASURY SOLICITOR) appeared on behalf of the DEFENDANT
THE SECOND DEFENDANT WAS NOT REPRESENTED AND DID NOT ATTEND
Crown Copyright ©
"9. The Bloomsbury Conservation Area is characterised by a planned pattern of streets and squares developed mainly during the 18th and early 19th centuries. The Conservation Area Statement recognises a series of sub-areas within this wider pattern that have distinctive and definable characteristics. The appeal site lies within Sub-Area 1, which includes Fitzroy Square and its surrounding streets. It is described in the Statement as 'a distinctive and consistent area of late 18th and early 19th century speculative development that consists of a grid of terraced streets with a central square. The area generally retains a homogeneous character and is an excellent example of Georgian town planning which combined dwellings with ancillary uses and services.'
10. The focal point of the locality is Fitzroy Square, around which are arranged blocks of buildings with mews for rear servicing. The Mews Areas are recognised in the Conservation Area Statement as an identifiable character zone within the Fitzroy Square sub-area. I saw that they vary in size and character but, as would be expected, are of a smaller and more intimate scale than the frontage buildings. Hertford Place is the original mews for the buildings that formed a block at the south-east corner of the Square, fronting Grafton Way, Whitfield Street, Maple Street and Fitzroy Street. It is not mentioned separately in the Conservation Area Statement and, in contrast to the other blocks surrounding Fitzroy Square, most of the buildings surrounding Hertford Place have been redeveloped since the 1950s. With the exception of the Indian YMCA at the corner of Fitzroy Square, the whole of this block is now occupied by University College London (UCL) student accommodation known as Ramsay Hall, mostly in the form of 6/7 storey flat-roofed buildings of indifferent appearance.
11. Hertford Place is approached under an archway from Whitfield Street. It contains the small 19th Century building for which consent for demolition has been granted, but otherwise no longer exhibits the features found in the other mews mentioned in the Statement, such as granite sett paving and small-scale brick garage buildings fronting a shared area. Although it is nominally a public highway, the entrance from Whitfield Street is gated (as is the smaller private entrance from Maple Street) and I understand that public vehicular access is restricted. I have no doubt that much of the original character of the mews has, therefore, been lost. Nonetheless, notwithstanding the extensive alteration that has taken place, Hertford Place remains part of the historic street pattern of the area."
"The mews areas are quiet, narrow streets and courts to the rear of the main streets that originally serviced the frontage residences. They tend to be smaller in scale, generally 2 or 3 storeys in height with the buildings immediately fronting a shared area, frequently with granite setts. They are in a variety of small scale commercial, business uses as well as continuing to provide some rear garaging. Access to the mews is either under an archway or through a narrow gap in the frontage which emphasises the change in scale. Facades are generally brick with vertically-proportioned window openings and ground level garaging."
"The proposed building, of rectangular plan, would be centrally situated in the 'courtyard' enclosed by the rear elevations of the existing Ramsay Hall and YMCA buildings."
"I am satisfied that the proposal would have no significant impact on the Conservation Area or the Listed Building as far as views in the wider townscape are concerned."
"16. The environment surrounding Hertford Place is now that of a courtyard enclosed by tall, predominantly modern flat roofed blocks. Apart from a limited area of grass and some small trees, it is characterised by hard surfacing and terraces above the basements of the surrounding blocks and lacks any unified landscaping treatment. Nevertheless, I consider that the dimensions of the open space are appropriate to the height of the surrounding buildings, preventing any undue sense of enclosure and creating a reasonably pleasant environment for their occupiers.
17. The 2-storey building that still, at present, remains is positioned to the south-east side of the roadway and is visible through the archway from Whitfield Street. Nevertheless, the unobstructed view through the archway is sufficient to give passers-by a glimpse of the openness within the courtyard, providing some small relief to the highly built-up nature of the streetscape away from the formal squares.
18. The proposed building would divide the courtyard into two separate areas linked only by the vehicular access beneath the building at its south-western end. Because of the height and length of the building, those areas would, in my judgment, have an oppressive and enclosed character, dominated by the height of the new and existing surrounding blocks. That would particularly be the case to the south-east of the proposed building, where the open area would be smaller. Little space is proposed for soft landscaping in either of the two open spaces. Notwithstanding any hard landscaping improvements that would take place as part of the appeal scheme, I consider that the value of the existing courtyard as an appropriate setting for the surrounding buildings (including the rear of the Indian YMCA) would be compromised by the height and bulk of the proposed building and the extent of its footprint.
19. Those impacts would be experienced mainly from the private realm within the courtyard and their impact on the wider Conservation Area would be limited. The rear elevation of the YMCA is, in my opinion, less sensitive to alteration than the main street elevations and is already the subject of a modern extension. However, the closure of the Whitfield Street access to vehicular traffic and the position of the proposed building immediately behind the archway, on the line of the existing roadway, would restrict views into the courtyard area from Whitfield Street to those at an acute angle across a small gap at either side of the proposed building. That would, in my opinion, result in a loss of openness that would be harmful to the street scene. It would also mean that Hertford Place would no longer be evident, even in a truncated form, as an indication of the original mews serving this street block."
"I understand the need for UCL to provide additional accommodation for students in halls of residence and the benefits in providing a purpose-built children's nursery."
"22. However, notwithstanding the acceptability of the principle of providing additional student accommodation at the site, Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) 1 General Policy and Principles advises that the relationship of proposed development to its surroundings is a material consideration in determining planning applications and appeals and that the appearance and treatment of the spaces between and around buildings is often of comparable importance to the design of the buildings themselves. It advises that poor designs should be rejected, and that such designs may include those that are out of scale or incompatible with their surroundings. Those design matters are addressed in UDP policies and are of particular importance in considering proposals for new development in Conservation Areas."
"23. I have already concluded that the proposed building would harm the quality of the courtyard environment within the street block, creating two smaller open areas that would be overwhelmed by the height and bulk of the buildings surrounding them. That harm would impact on the character and appearance of the Conservation Area. It would be restricted to the private realm and must be balanced against the advantage of providing a significant amount of additional accommodation for students, together with a children's nursery, to meet a recognised need, on an existing University site where communal facilities can be shared. However, because of its intended siting and its proximity to the archway, the proposed building would also have a harmful impact on the public street scene in Whitfield Street. It would reduce the openness introduced by the access to Hertford Place and would obscure evidence of the historic street pattern of the Conservation Area. Overall, the proposal would, in my judgment, conflict with the requirements of UDP policy and with the advice in PPG 15 Planning and the Historic Environment that new buildings should be designed with respect for their context.
"24. The impact of the proposal on the setting of the Listed Building would, in my view, be minimal and restricted to the extent to which its rear elevation (including the new extension) could be appreciated from within the courtyard. There would be no other significant impacts on the appearance of the site or the street block in the wider townscape. Nonetheless, I consider that, because of the harm that it would cause to the courtyard environment, the street scene in Whitfield Street, and to evidence of the historic street pattern, the proposed development would fail to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area. On balance, I find that it is, accordingly, unacceptable."
In reaching his conclusion that the Development would fail to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the Conservation Area, the Inspector failed to take into account material considerations and/or took into account immaterial considerations and/or acted perversely."
The Inspector failed properly to discharge his duty under section 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990."
If it was proper for the Inspector to find that the Development failed to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the Conservation Area, he failed properly to assess the degree of harm which the Development caused to the character or appearance of the Conservation Area."
The Inspector failed to have any, or alternatively proper, regard to:
i) the need of the Appellant for the Development, and/or
ii) the benefits which would result from the Development."
The Inspector failed to set out adequate reasons for his decision, as a result of which the Claimant has suffered substantial prejudice.
"In the exercise, with respect to any buildings or other land in a conservation area, of any functions under or by virtue of any of the provisions mentioned in subsection (2), special attention shall be paid to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area."
"quantify the weight to be attached to [the] failure to preserve or enhance [the character or appearance of the Conservation Area]."
"Whilst an Inspector can reasonably expect parties at an inquiry to explore and clarify the position of their opponents, if an Inspector is to take a line which has not been explored, perhaps because a party has been under a misapprehension as to the true position of its opponents, as in my view happened here, fairness means that an Inspector give the party an opportunity to deal with it."
"He need not do so where the party ought reasonably to have been aware on the material and arguments presented at the inquiry that a particular point could not be ignored or that a particular aspect needed to be addressed."
"More specifically, the proposal, in its current form, alters the existing pattern of development, subsequently contributing to the erosion of the character of the area, in terms of the prevailing urban grain.
On the basis of the aforementioned observations, it is considered that the proposal in its current form is unacceptable. A replacement scheme should better respect the site's context, by significantly reducing the collective effect that the proposal's height, bulk, massing and building footprint imposes [sic] on the visual amenity and sense of openness currently afforded by the existing courtyard buildings."
"Hertford Place as part of the wider Conservation Area
Importance of openness of courtyard
Impact of landscaping
Council to explain concern about 'urban grain'."
"Those impacts would be experienced mainly from the private realm within the courtyard and their impact on the wider Conservation Area would be limited." (my emphasis)
"I have already concluded that the proposed building would harm the quality of the courtyard environment within the street block, creating two smaller open areas that would be overwhelmed by the height and bulk of the buildings surrounding them. That harm would impact on the character and appearance of the Conservation Area." (my emphasis)
"Every local planning authority -
(a) shall from time to time determine which parts of their area are areas of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance, and
(b) shall designate those areas as conservation areas."
"We may, I think, take judicial notice of the extensive areas, both urban and rural, which have been designated as conservation areas. It is entirely right that in any such area a much stricter control over development than elsewhere should be exercised with the object of preserving or, where possible, enhancing the qualities in the character or appearance of the area which underlie its designation as a conservation area under section 277. But where a particular development will not have any adverse effect on the character or appearance of the area and is otherwise unobjectionable on planning grounds, one may ask rhetorically what possible planning reason there can be for refusing to allow it." (emphasis added)
"Read fairly and as a whole the sense of the inspector's reasoning is perfectly clear. Excessively legalistic textual criticism of planning decision letters is something the courts should strongly discourage."
" ... quiet, narrow streets and courts to the rear of the main streets that originally serviced the frontage residences. They tend to be smaller in scale, generally 2 or 3 storeys in height with the buildings immediately fronting a shared area, frequently with granite setts... Access to the mews is either under an archway or through a narrow gap in the frontage which emphasises the change in scale."
"There is no suggestion in the Inspector's decision letter that views into open areas within the street blocks are a characteristic of the Conservation Area."
" ... sufficient to give passers-by a glimpse of the openness within the courtyard, providing some small relief to the highly built-up nature of the streetscape away from the formal squares."