In a bitter defeat for campaign group, Save Britain’s Heritage (SAVE), the High Court has opened the way for demolition of a Victorian chapel after rejecting claims that planners had engaged in illegitimate ‘salami slicing’ in order to avoid the necessity of carrying out a full environmental impact assessment.
Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council had initially planned to retain the Presbyterian chapel as part of a major housing renewal project which was being carried out in phases. However, after the building ceased to be used for worship, it had been severely vandalised and the council formed the view that its partially collapsed roof and state of dereliction had become a health and safety hazard.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government gave a screening opinion that an environmental impact assessment was not required in respect of the chapel’s removal. In challenging that decision, SAVE argued that the building’s demolition should have been viewed as part of the overall renewal project.
It was submitted that the much larger project had been ‘salami sliced’ by the council into smaller phases which did not pass the threshold where an environmental impact assessment would be mandatory. However, the Court ruled that the council had acted properly and that the Secretary of State had been right to view the chapel’s demolition as an independent project for which an assessment was not required.