Building Preservation Notices: a Local Authority Experience
By Michael Bullen, Team Leader, Design and Conservation, Test Valley Borough Council
Since 2006, Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) has served six Building Preservation Notices (BPNs). They have been used as one of the mechanisms available to help achieve high quality outcomes in relation to development management goals. Or to put it in other words, to ensure that buildings of architectural interest that come to light in the assessment of planning applications are retained and protected from harmful developments and alteration, in accordance with the advice in paragraph 190 of the NPPF.
The first, in 2006, was in respect of the White House, in Romsey, and is the only case where the developers, who had made an application to build flats on the site, claimed against the council for loss of income. It was a modest early 19th century house with a good survival of original details and fittings but also with a substantial and harmful 20th century flat-roofed addition at the rear.
The officer recommendation was that the success of a BPN being confirmed was only moderate but, at the request of elected members, the notice was served. The building was not added to the list. The claim against the council for loss of income was £56,058 but was settled at £24,600 (including legal costs and VAT) following negotiations.
Despite this experience the authority has continued to serve BPNs, some successful, some not, but, due to the care with which the council assesses possible cases to take forward, none have resulted in further claims for compensation.
In 2010, as a result of a planning application, a row of former farmworkers’ cottages were discovered in Upton. They were created in the early 19th century by converting an existing 17th century house, and were remarkably intact, having been abandoned for many years. The BPN was served just as the builders were starting work and was subsequently confirmed.
In 2014 a BPN was served in respect of a 15th century timber framed farm building at Michelmersh Manor Farm, an important site as a medieval manor of Winchester Priory. Externally unprepossessing, it came to light as a result of a consultation on a Class Q application for residential conversion. The BPN was, unsurprisingly, confirmed and a more satisfactory conversion scheme negotiated.
Two BPNs were served in 2015, one for Red House Farmhouse, a late 16th century smoke-bay house in Plaitford, on the edge of the New Forest, brought to the attention of the conservation team by an eagle-eyed planning officer, and ultimately listed. The other, resulting from a planning application, was for a very modest early 19th century farmworkers cottage, part of an out farm of the same date, the barns of which were already listed. Despite the increased significance as part of a group it was considered too altered and not listed.
A further BPN was served against Whistler’s Farmhouse, Tangley, in 2016, again as a result of a planning officer’s discovery. A late 17th century house, given particular interest by an 18th century brick and flint ‘vernacular classical’ fronting, it was considered too altered.
The most recent BPN, served in 2017, was in respect of Upper Manor Farmhouse, Longstock, brought to the notice of the conservation team because of a change of use application for another building on the site. Despite a substantial late 19th century addition, the service wing comprises a substantial part of a 15th century timber framed farmhouse. The notice was served when some alterations had been carried out, but further harmful changes have been avoided.
The 2006 application aside, six BPNs have been served in nine years, with a success rate of 50%, although the number is too small to be statistically meaningful. What the TVBC experience suggests is that the risk of compensation claims is not necessarily as high as is commonly perceived. Apart from the White House case, which was a commercial development, the other examples relate to domestic buildings where the owners were wishing to make changes for their own benefit. In no case did the BPN prevent any change at all, indeed in the case of the Upton cottages change was essential if the building was to be brought back into beneficial use. In these cases the owners were focussed on meeting their personal needs and not pursuing the local authority for compensation.
It is clear that BPNs are a useful tool available to a local authority which, with its other powers, can be used to enable sustainable conservation aims without resulting in compensation claims, as long as the risk of such claims is carefully assessed in each case.
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