Inspector dismisses appeal against refusal of permission for 124-unit residential scheme on allocated site in setting of Guildford Cathedral

Land south and east of Guildford Cathedral (Appeal Ref. APP/Y3615/W/23/3330618)
28 May 2024

Planning and Environment

By a decision of 24 May 2024, a planning inspector has dismissed a section 78 appeal (3330618) against Guildford Borough Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for the demolition of existing Cathedral Close dwellings and erection of 124 residential dwellings with associated works. The Decision follows a nine-day inquiry held in March 2024.

The appeal site, which is in the immediate vicinity of the Grade II* listed Guildford Cathedral, is allocated ‘for approximately 100 homes (C3)’.

The main issue at the heart of the appeal was the effect of the proposal to the special interest and significance of heritage assets (particularly the Cathedral), with reference to the design and landscape context.

Inspector Tom Bristow concluded that the proposal would result in a clear adverse effect to the setting and significance of the Cathedral with reference to design and landscape context (§98). He accepted the Council’s position that the proposal would cause less than substantial heritage harm to the Cathedral towards the middle of the spectrum within that categorisation (§100). The Inspector found that no material considerations in favour of the proposal justified allowing the appeal (§129).

The Appeal Decision underlines that the allocation of a site for development is not carte blanche for any development, especially in circumstances where sensitive landscape and heritage considerations are involved.  The question of whether a proposal sensitively and appropriately responds to the requirements of such allocations often requires a nuanced and thoroughly evidenced answer.

This case also illustrates that there can be a proper role for the consideration of alternative approaches on an appeal site, particularly where the site is allocated and where there is a policy requirement to demonstrate a clear and convincing justification for heritage harm arising (§119-128).

Tom Cosgrove KC and Jack Barber were instructed by Michael Elford of Guildford Borough Council.

The successful local planning authority assembled the following team for the inquiry: Kelly Jethwa and Laura Howard of Guildford Borough Council (giving evidence, respectively, on Planning and Housing Land Supply), Nigel Barker-Mills of Barker-Mills Conservation (Heritage), Amanda Reynolds of AR Urbanism (Design and Masterplanning), and Tanya Kirk of Hankinson Duckett Associates (Landscape).

Download the appeal decision here.