New precedent for works in conservation areas

A "small but important" point has been determined by the High Court, changing the face of planning control for alterations and demolitions of walls and gates in conservation areas.

The judgment of Barton v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor[1] deals with the approach to determining if works to part of a wall or gateway amount to an alteration (which is permitted development not requiring planning permission) or demolition (which does require planning permission from the local authority).

Thrings, led by planning solicitor, Rosalyn Trotman, acted on behalf of the landowner to challenge the appeal decision of the Secretary of State whose inspector had upheld an enforcement notice requiring the rebuild of a small section of wall removed to widen a gateway in a conservation area in Bath.

The planned alteration was to widen the gateway from one metre to 3.5 metres to provide greater access, leaving the remainder of the 25-metre wall intact. The alteration was postponed part-way through due to an enforcement investigation by Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Multiple planning advisors formed the view that such works were an alteration pursuant to permitted development rights, and not a demolition requiring planning permission. The inspector disagreed in the enforcement notice appeal, deciding that the works amounted to a demolition requiring planning permission. 

His Honour Judge Jarman QC’s judgment was handed down in favour of the Secretary of State, finding that the well-established House of Lords case of Shimizu (UK) Ltd v Westminster City Council[2] no longer applies to the control of works in a conservation area when interpreting the current legislation (despite no change to the wording of the relevant provisions across the old and new regimes). The Shimizu case had provided that whether works amounted to an “alteration” or a “demolition” in a conservation area had to be considered by reference to the whole of the structure in question, and not just part.

Rosalyn said: “The implications of this judgment are potentially far-reaching. They will certainly be of interest to planning practitioners who may find it difficult to advise landowners with any certainty on what works can be carried out on walls and gates in conservation areas without the need for planning permission.”

For more information on this case, or to discuss any planning-related matter, please contact Rosalyn Trotman.


[1] Barton v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor [2017] EWHC 573 (Admin)

[2] Shimizu (UK) Ltd v Westminster City Council [1997] 1 WLR 168


Thrings Solicitors