The High Court has dismissed an appeal brought by the owner of a Grade II listed farmhouse, in which it was alleged that an Inspector had displayed bias against double gazed windows, and that this was a reflection of a wider prejudice on the part of planning officers and planning inspectors against the installation of such windows in listed buildings. Estelle Dehon defended the appeal on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (SSCLG).
The appeal, brought by Mr and Mrs Guinness, the owners of Widmoor Farm in Ellisfield, was suggested to be a "test case" in the interests of owners of listed buildings who wished to use timber framed double glazed windows – see the coverage in The Times here. However, Neil Cameron QC, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, accepted the SSCLG's argument that the appeal process under section 63(1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, does not offer the opportunity for a general review of the practice adopted by local authority officers and planning inspectors. Instead, it allows for "a challenge to one particular decision by one inspector".
The Judge held that the Inspector had considered the benefits of thermal efficiency of double glazing, and English Heritage's advice concerning double glazed units, and that the decision did not disclose any bias or prejudice towards any particular means of achieving thermal efficiency.
A further ground of appeal alleging procedural unfairness also failed. The appellants contended that the hearing had been unfair because of the way in which the Inspector addressed the fact that there were not measured drawings of the windows, and the Inspector's approach to the photomontages which had been produced by the appellants. The Judge applied the principles in Hopkins Developments Ltd v SSCLG  PTSR 1145, and held that there has not been procedural unfairness as the appellants knew the case they had to meet and were not prejudiced as a result of the Inspector's approach to the evidence.
The decision, Guinness v SSCLG  EWHC 4114 (Admin), is available here.