Striking the balance between the preservation of heritage assets and the provision of new housing is a perennial planning issue for regeneration and housing development projects across England. It is almost unavoidable in historic town centres or where housing land has been allocated in rural locations.
The issue was central in this case in Coventry. Arguably, the site was not in the most sensitive location given Coventry was heavily bombed during the war and the Canal Conservation Area is extensive.
Nonetheless, the City Council and the Inspector at the appeal identified harm to the significance of Grade II listed buildings and the Conservation Area. This harm was, as confirmed by the courts in recent case law, to be afforded ‘great weight’ in the decision making planning process. Here the Inspector decided that the benefits of providing 75% affordable housing as part of a 107 unit scheme outweighed that heritage harm.
We have increasingly seen Inspectors taking a conservative stance on these sorts of cases, no doubt in light of recent decisions which have been challenged in the courts, and it is interesting to see a decision that bucks the trend. I for one will be following the progress of this case if it goes further.