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Ruling on garden ornaments signals warning to listed homeowners

08/02/2017

A ruling that a pair of rare limestone gate piers and lead urns, which were removed from the grounds of a listed building and sold, must be retrieved and reinstated sends out a strong message to owners of listed properties.

FBCMB | Mrk turner - Planning solicitor

The saga of the Grade II listed fixtures at Idlicote House in Shipston-on-Stour has finally been settled after a three-year planning battle following the decision of a planning inspector.

Mark Turner, a lawyer with our Town & Country Planning Team, examines the decision: 

The two piers and urns were located on either side of the driveway that leads to the imposing country property in Warwickshire and received their own Grade II listing in 1986.

They were extremely rare and were sold by the property’s owner in 2009 to an unknown overseas buyer for £55,000.

Fast forward five years and the sale came to the attention of the local council, which refused a subsequent application for retrospective listed building consent for their removal. 

The authority issued a listed building enforcement notice, requiring the items to be returned to their former location, a move that led the owner to appeal both the refusal of permission and the enforcement notice to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

The owner’s claim was that the significance of the objects lay in them alone and that their removal from the grounds of Idlicote House did not have any significant effect on the setting of the listed house. It was also claimed that the assets had been fully preserved and that there could be confidence in their continued preservation by their new owner.

But the council argued that the removal of the items equated to demolition and that substantial harm had been caused to the historic and architectural significance of the heritage assets as a result.

The Inspector appointed to determine the appeals agreed with the Council, stating that their removal had affected their integrity and character as ‘listed buildings’ and that their continued preservation by their new owner could not be assured.

He also said that “they possessed settings of their own (once listed) which have been completely lost or undone and their special historic and architectural features have been put at risk.”

The property owner now faces the arduous – and expensive – task of retrieving the piers and urns or face prosecution by the council.

This case sends out a stark warning that listed building status is not to be ignored and breaches will be pursued. It’s not easy owning a listed building and legal advice should always be sought when it comes to any major changes you’re proposing.

It’s an offence to carry out any works for the demolition, including removal or relocation, of a listed building or for its alteration or extension that in any manner would affect its special character, without the consent of the local planning authority.

Only a ‘building’ can be listed; but, under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 the term ‘building’ has a very wide definition, which includes ‘any structure or erection, and any part of a building as so defined’.

The term obviously includes whole or parts of buildings, but the wide definition extends to pieces of sculpture, such as the piers and urns, as well as telephone kiosks and even post boxes if the objects had been within the curtilage of the listed building since 1948, even if they were not individually listed. 

The Town & Country Planning team at FBC Manby Bowdler has significant experience in dealing with all issues related to listed buildings and assets, including applications, appeals and enforcement notices.

Mark specialises in a variety of matters including planning applications, appeals, hearings and inquiries, matters involving heritage assets, compulsory purchase matters and judicial reviews, and section 106 agreements. For further advice, please contact him on 01952 208412 or m.turner@fbcmb.co.uk.

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