Conservation areas: conduct at inquiry; raising new issues at the High Court  

McCleave applied to quash a decision of the Planning Inspector to dismiss his appeal against the refusal of planning permission by the LPA for the change of use of an existing building to a dwelling. The building which was within a conservation area, was incomplete and subject to an enforcement notice which was upheld on appeal. McCleave proposed to retain the building, complete its construction and use it as a dwelling.

The LPA maintained that, although part of the site had once had a residential use because it had previously sited a terrace of small cottages, those buildings had been demolished and the residential use had therefore ceased. McCleave submitted that the former presence of houses on the site and the existence of the remains of some of those houses, were enough to justify his proposed residential development of the land. The Inspector found that the residential use of the land had ceased and that McCleave’s proposals would be harmful to the character and appearance of the countryside and would affect the area of high landscape value. He also found that, due to the building’s poor design, it would fail to preserve the character and appearance of the conservation area. He concluded that the proposal was contrary to the local development plan.  

On appeal to the High Court, McCleave contended that the conduct of the inquiry by the Inspector had been unacceptable, that the omission of pages from a decision letter concerning the planning permission had affected his decision and that he had erred in thinking that all of the appeal site was within a conservation area. The Court dismissed his appeal, finding that there was nothing unacceptable in the way in which the Inspector had conducted the inquiry. The Court further found that McCleave’s contention that an area of the land in question had established residential use had no substance. The court ruled that McCleave could not raise new issues which had not been dealt with at the Inspector’s inquiry because this would require the consideration of new evidence. The Court concluded that there was no error of law in relation to the issues raised. Accordingly, the Inspector had been entitled to conclude that McCleave’s proposal would be harmful to the character and appearance of the countryside and would fail to preserve the character and appearance of the conservation area.