Outcry over historic ceiling demolition ‘influenced council decision’

An Article in The Planner (details below) carries the planning appeal decision in relation to an appeal by a developer over a decision by Bristol City Council to refuse to grant planning permission.

The Planner article is here.

The appeal concerned a 400-year old townhouse in Bristol’s historic centre, which was last used as a bar with offices and flats above.  The owner of the building applied to the council for permission to convert the building’s upper floors to form four student accommodation units, retaining the bar use below.  Part of the upper floors contained an ornate Jacobean pendant ceiling.

After the application was submitted, Bristol’s conservation advisory panel applied to Historic England for the building to be spot-listed in order to preserve the  Jacobean ceiling, however, the day before it was due to be inspected, the developer tore down the ceiling, claiming the works were carried out for safety reasons.  The developer’s actions caused public outrage in Bristol.

Historic England stated that because the building was not listed at the time of the demolition, the developer had not broken the law.

The council voted to refuse planning permission for the developer’s student accommodation, but the decision was appealed and referred to inspector J P Tudor.  The Inspector noted the council’s development control committee minutes, which suggested that despite warnings from its planning officers, the council’s decision was “markedly influenced by public controversy” surrounding the removal of the historic ceiling.  “Regrettable though those actions may have been,” he ruled, “the proposal must be determined in accordance with the development plan.”

He was not persuaded by the council’s reasons for refusal, which he called “vague, generalised and, at some points, confused”.

Overall, and not withstanding the “unfortunate” harm to the historic ceiling, Tudor concluded that the scheme would comply with local and national policy. He allowed the appeal, and ordered a full award of costs against the council.

The Planning Inspectorate’s case reference no. is 3194372 – link to the case is here 

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