Restoration of Listed Mansion’s Roof Triggers High Court Planning Row

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Owners of listed buildings carry heavy responsibilities and any restoration work must generally be in keeping with the original. In a High Court case on point, the owners of a historic mansion dramatically disagreed with planners as to the type of tiles that should be used in re-roofing the property.

The mansion, built in the early 20th century, was grade II* listed as a prime example of the Arts and Crafts style. However, its stone roof tiles had reached the end of their useful life and water was getting into the property. Its owners favoured re-roofing it with a man-made reproduction slate. They said that would give the most authentic look and their proposals were backed by a number of conservation bodies.

The local authority disagreed, however, and refused consent for the project under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. The council said that the man-made tiles would have a detrimental impact on the property’s special character and suggested two types of natural slate as a better solution that would be more in keeping with the mansion’s architectural style.

The council’s decision was subsequently upheld by a government planning inspector, who noted that the Arts and Crafts movement was all about a return to craftsmanship and a move away from mass production and industrialisation. That objective would not be honoured by the industrially produced reproduction slates proposed.

In rejecting the couple’s challenge to that decision, the Court noted that there was no positive obligation on the inspector to conduct a comparison between the relative merits of man-made tiles against natural slate. He gave adequate reasons for a rational exercise of planning judgment.