Project: Erection of 70 no. affordable and 105 no. market dwellings, formation of new accesses onto Stourport Road (the A451 road) and the B4197 road, public open space, dedication of land for bowling green, surface and foul water management system and landscaping


Application Ref No: 17/00093/FUL,

Appeal Ref: APP/J1860/W/17/3187943

Inspector: David Nicholson RIBA IHBC

The Heritage Statement: Great Witley Heritage Statement December 2016 19.pdf

The Archaeological Desk Based Assessment:Great Witley Both Fields Combined DBA 4 Dec  2016.pdf

The Heritage Appeal Statement Great Witley Appeal Statement 3.pdf

The Appeal Decision: Appeal Decision 3187943.pdf

Decision Date: 4/July/2018


The Issue: "the requirement to preserve the setting to the Grade II* Registered Park and Garden at Witley Court, and the settings of other designated heritage assets"


What the Inspector said: "Witley Court is a Grade I listed house which was partly destroyed by fire in 1937 and not rebuilt. Attached to the main house is a Grade I listed church with an important Baroque interior. The garden is a Grade II* registered park and garden, which just clips the appeal site, originating from a 17th-century deer park. In the early 19th century it was improved by Nash, Repton and Nesfield, then the country's most prestigious garden designer. The garden extends out from Witley Court, coming relatively close to the village, and the park designation clips the south-east corner of the appeal site. The main avenues running through the park are lined with trees.


25. Other designated assets considered in the Heritage Statement, and potentially affected, include the Old Rectory, the Redmarley farmhouse, Robin's Croft cottage and The Dairy and its adjoining buildings, all Grade II listed. However, compared with Witley Court, the extent of their settings is minimal. Abberley Clock Tower, stands over 1km away to the north-west of the village.


In its representations, Historic England (HE) argued that the proposed development would be within the setting of Witley Park and would cause considerable harm to it and other heritage assets. There was no disagreement that the development would not physically affect any heritage asset; the objections concerned their settings. I acknowledge that intervisibility need not be the only criterion to be considered with regard to setting. HE has argued that Witley Park was designed in such a way that the visitor was intended to see beyond its boundary and that the eastern field is an important part of its setting. However, nothing in the representations suggests that in this appeal any of the surrounding lands offer anything to Witley Park's setting beyond the limits of visibility. I have therefore limited my consideration to intervisibility.


27. With regard to Witley Park, I do not agree that the planned experience was to be totally limited to within the avenues of trees. While these trees are undoubtedly important I do not accept that they were intended to restrict the views out. Rather, they did and do add drama to the route to the house but the views over the surrounding countryside are also of some value as an agricultural backdrop to the avenues. Nevertheless, from the evidence before me, and my site visit along the uneven track from Rosery Lodge to Witley Court, I found nothing to suggest that views out from the fields beyond the avenue are important or that there is any intervisibility between the areas within the Park which are of significance and the appeal site.


28. The Grade II listed Rosery Lodge (formerly Stourport Lodge) was added to the north-western entrance to Witley Park (near the junction of the A443 and the B4197) in about 1860. Other than the lodges, the list descriptions make little reference to the areas of park and garden between Witley Court and Great Witley. The Appellants have illustrated the zone of visibility with Rosery Lodge. While this includes a significant proportion of the appeal site, much of this area would remain undeveloped. Abberley Clock Tower, a Grade II* listed campanile built in 1883-4, was probably designed to maximise its visibility in the rolling countryside. Most of the appeal site is within its setting, as is much of the surrounding area, but this has already been altered by recent development and the scheme would have little additional effect on the existing setting.


29. I therefore conclude on this issue that the scheme would preserve the setting to the registered park and garden. It would comply with NPPF§192 by taking account of the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets; NPPF§193, which requires great weight to be given to the significance of designated heritage assets; and NPPF§194, which advises that any harm to, or loss of, the significance of a designated heritage asset (from its alteration or destruction, or from development within its setting), should require clear and convincing justification.


Planning balance

34. As above, the scheme would not comply with Policy SWDP 2C which, in accordance with NPPF§21, is identified as part of the development strategy for the district. The benefits of additional housing, and affordable housing, in a district which can demonstrate a 5 year HLS attract only moderate weight. In the absence of the tilted balance in NPPF§11, to be applied where the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites4, there are no other significant material considerations that would outweigh the conflict with the development plan. Moreover, notwithstanding the limited harm with regard to landscape value, highway safety, heritage assets and flooding, the balance of the above benefits against the harm to the character and appearance of the area through the loss of an attractive landscape, which would be replaced by a poor design when judged against the NPPF, also points towards dismissal.