Plans to redevelop Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's house blocked

 

A High Court challenge to a plan to redevelop the Victorian house where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Hound Of The Baskervilles has succeeded.

Author John Gibson, founder of the Undershaw Preservation Trust, attacked Waverley Borough Council's September 2010 decision to allow owner Fossway Ltd to divide Grade II-listed Undershaw into eight separate homes.

The building, at Hindhead Crossroads near Haslemere, Surrey, was used as a hotel since the 1920s and left empty in 2005, falling into disrepair.

Today, Mr Justice Cranston said that, because of legal flaws, the council's decisions to grant planning permission and listed building consent must be quashed.

There was strong public support for preserving Undershaw, which the author designed and where he lived from 1897 to 1907, completing 13 Sherlock Holmes stories in that time.

The 1,360 objections to the proposal included those from the Victorian Society, local MP and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, ex-chairman of the Arts Council Sir Christopher Frayling, Julian Barnes - who set his Booker Prize-nominated novel Arthur And George in Undershaw - writer Ian Rankin and broadcaster Stephen Fry.

The council, which is to pay Mr Gibson's agreed costs of £20,000, was given time to consider whether to appeal.

Mr Gibson, who also gained support from Mark Gatiss, co-creator of the BBC's Sherlock, said after the ruling: "This has been a long and difficult battle to save Undershaw and we are absolutely thrilled with the decision to quash planning permission to redevelop the property.

"This is a place which is steeped in history and should be treated with reverence.

"Conan Doyle's life and works are a fundamental part of British culture and arguably their stock has never been higher.

"We have been absolutely delighted to see enthusiasts from across the world get in touch and pledge their support to our efforts.

"We are very hopeful that this decision will signal a sea-change in attitude towards this historic property and that it will lead to it being rightly preserved as a single building - hopefully as a museum or centre where future generations can be inspired by the many stories which have been created within its walls."

Echoing the great fictional detective, solicitors Irwin Mitchell, which represented Mr Gibson, said the council made "elementary" errors.

Andrew Lockley, head of public law, said: "We have had long-held concerns that basic errors were made by Waverley Borough Council in its decision to grant planning permission on Undershaw and this view has now been absolutely vindicated.

"The local authority failed to ensure that it received English Heritage's views on the plans before taking its decision, despite consultation with English Heritage being a legal requirement due to the property's Grade II-listed status.

"In addition, the council failed in its duty to reconsider the Fossway development plans following the submission of a second application on the property which would see it maintained as a single dwelling.

"Today's decision means it is now back to the drawing board in terms of the future of Undershaw but, like John, we hope to see this property of huge cultural and historical significance preserved and treated in the manner it deserves."

The judge said Conan Doyle constructed Undershaw after choosing the location as particularly suited to the needs of his consumptive wife, Louise.

Before Louise's death in 1906, his remarriage and move to Crowborough, he entertained many friends at the house, such as Peter Pan author JM Barrie and Dracula creator Bram Stoker.

In a 1907 article, Stoker described Undershaw as having "all the elements of home" and said the view from the drawing room was one of "a never-ending sea of greenery" to the South Downs, about 20 miles distant.

Conan Doyle did not sell Undershaw until 1921 and, in 1977, it was listed as being of special architectural and historic interest by virtue of its literary association rather than its unexceptional architecture.

The integrity of the original design had been severely compromised by an early 20th century extension.

The judge said Fossway had clearly bought the property, in 2004, for its development potential and its scheme for the house included a gazebo within the grounds, which would be open to the public and provide information about Conan Doyle.

The judge said lawyers for the council had made it clear that it wanted to preserve Undershaw, which was apparent from the substantial sums spent to make it secure in the light of its neglect by Fossway.

The real issue was how best to achieve that aim for the long term and without the risk of continuing uncertainty.

On the evidence, the ideal of returning it to a single dwelling was not on the cards and, that being the case, the planning officer had adopted a realistic and achievable line, it argued.

There were disadvantages to the Fossway proposals, but the prize was the preservation of the building in the main, and the link with Conan Doyle.

The desirability of preserving the listed building, its setting and its features of special architectural and historic interest lay at the heart of the determination of the applications, said the council.

The judge concluded that the council's arguments did not adequately meet the requirements of the statutory mandate to pay special regard to the preservation of heritage assets and planning policy.

PA

Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Sport
Jose Mourinho restrains his assistant manager Rui Faria, Fabio Borini celebrates his winning penalty and Connor Wickham equalises for Sunderland
sportChelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Deafeat is extra bitter as former Chelsea player Fabio Borini scores late penalty to seal victory
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit