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Aesthetics Trumped by Tarmac in Conservation Area

Published: 14 May 2013, in categories: Legal Updates | Commercial Property Updates | News and Updates

In a case which underlines that aesthetic appearance is only one factor in planning decisions, a brewery that is committed to the conservation of the historic Yorkshire town where it is based has failed to block plans for the re-surfacing of a public car park with tarmac, rather than more visually pleasing York stone setts.

Samuel Smith Old Brewery Tadcaster fiercely objected when Selby District Council granted itself planning permission to re-surface the town’s ‘scruffy’ Chapel Street car park in tarmac. The company argued that the modern surface would detract from the setting of the conservation area.

However, in dismissing the challenge, the High Court noted that the council had relied upon the advice of a planning officer qualified in architectural conservation that the use of tarmac would not detract from the area’s character and appearance.

Whilst agreeing that stone flagging could be seen as ‘superior' on aesthetic grounds, the officer had considered a tarmac surface 'acceptable' in a public car park. He had also noted that the car park already had a crumbling tarmac surface and replacing it with the same material would ‘enhance’ the area’s appearance.

The court observed that local conservation policies had properly been brought to councillors' attention and that the car park was not itself a heritage asset in a town already replete with tarmac-surfaced roads and private parking areas. The planning application had been determined in accordance with the advice of English Heritage and there was nothing perverse or objectionable in the council’s view that a tarmac surface was 'acceptable for a car park'.

The brewery had also argued, inter alia, that the council failed to have due regard to its alternative scheme for the car park. However, the court found no flaw in the planning officer’s conclusion that re-surfacing it in York stone would be costly and was 'unfortunately not a deliverable option at this juncture'.

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