Historic England has succeeded in a High Court challenge against a Planning Inspector’s decision to grant planning permission for residential development on a site located near Grade 1 listed Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire.

Under section 66 of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Area) Act 1990, in considering whether to grant planning permission for development which affects a listed building or its setting the relevant planning authority must have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses.

This statutory obligation is further developed in the NPPF, the Planning Policy Guidance and Historic England’s “Good Practice Advice in Planning 3: The setting of Heritage Assets”, all of which take a broad approach to the definition of “setting”, making clear that whilst a “physical or visual connection between a heritage site and its setting will often exist, it is not essential nor determinative” (para 64).

In this case the development site was not visible from the Hall and vice versa. As highlighted in Historic England’s consultation response, however, the site was located on land which had historical, social and economic connections with the Hall. The Inspector concluded that the development site could not be found to be within the “setting” of the Hall unless a more “physical or visual” connection between the site and the Hall could be shown.

In line with the submissions put forward by the Claimant and Historic England (which joined as an Interested Party), Mrs Justice Lang concluded that the Inspector erred in law in adopting “an artificially narrow approach to the issue of setting which treated visual connections as essential and determinative” (para 69).

The Judge helpfully explained that within the geographical limitations introduced by the term “surrounding” in the NPPF definition of “setting” (para 67), a setting may well be defined by reference to non-visual attributes such as land use or the historic relationship between places.