Bah humbug

The cold within a planning inspector “froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice” as the old Scrooge dismissed a recent appeal against the refusal of planning permission for a Christmas market in York (DCS Number 400-024-155).

The appellant sought permission, the inspector recorded, to use the forecourt area of the grade I listed Judge’s Lodging to host an annual Christmas market, as part of which a number of timber structures would be placed around the sweeping carriage drive and semi-circular forecourt. The temporary structures would be six small sheds acting as market stalls and a larger structure that would encircle the tree in the centre of the forecourt.

Oh, how lovely it would be!

The inspector considered, however, that the row of four sheds on the left-hand side of the sweeping entrance would be an incongruous and conspicuously formal and regimented arrangement that would pay little regard to the sweeping curve of the carriage drive. The other two sheds, he observed, would effectively stand sentry to the ground floor entrance door in front of the sweeping curve of the staircases. He opined that not only would these partially obscure the staircase from both entrance gate aspects, but they would, when added to the other structures, significantly impinge upon views, and a full understanding and appreciation of, the carriage drive’s form and function, and the form of the staircase itself. Equally harmful, he continued, would be the larger and bulky structure encircling the tree located centrally within the forecourt.

The inspector recognised that Christmas markets in historic environments are not uncommon. He also acknowledged that the Christmas market was aimed at small business traders, and provided a basis for locally produced crafts and goods to supplement those offered elsewhere during the St Nicholas Fair. Nevertheless, and noting that he was required to give great weight to the heritage asset’s conservation, the inspector concluded that the public benefits did not outweigh the less than substantial harm that would arise.

Bah! Humbug!

Further appeal examples concerning harm to the setting of listed buildings can be found  at section 27.43 of DCP Online.