Replacing the irreplaceable

The redevelopment of a house in a southwest London conservation area with a replica building to provide two five-storey dwellings has been rejected, an inspector being unconvinced that the proposal would achieve a satisfactory outcome (DCS Number 400-021-231).

The inspector acknowledged that there was an extant permission for conversion of the building into two houses. The permitted scheme was essentially the same design as the proposal before him, other than that the demolition of the existing building was now proposed rather than its conversion and alteration. He observed that the building was a substantial detached property dating originally from the mid to late nineteenth century which retained much of its traditional character.

NPPF paragraph 184 explains that heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource, the inspector recorded. Significantly, he reasoned that an irreplaceable resource cannot be preserved by copying it. That involves artifice, he opined, rather than maintaining integrity. He accepted the appellant’s sincerity in seeking to produce a replica of the building but considered that it would be highly challenging to reflect the subtlety of the architectural detailing present, or the patina that the property had developed over time.

The inspector was not satisfied that the construction of a replica would have little visual effect. Whilst the resultant changes to the nature of the property might not appear substantial at a superficial level, they would nonetheless fail to preserve local character and appearance and the historic significance of the building, he concluded.

Other examples of appeals in which this issue has been addressed can be found in Section 27.137 of DCP Online.