Highclere Castle Enabling Development

This page gives a reverse chronological account of the proposal for 'Enabling Development' at Highclere Castle. There has been no activity since 2011 and the relevant pages on the Basingstoke & Deane website have been removed. Enabling development is still a valid planning approach for the protection of historic buildings as detailed in paragraph 140 of the National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012).

Update (Nov 2010)

Following an indication of interest by Lord Lloyd Webber in buying the Hghclere Castle Estate, the council sought the view of English Heritage on how this would affect enabling development. The response was that a sale on the open market could put at risk the intent of keeping the Estate together as a whole, which is the main aim of the enabling development. This follows the July 2009 letter from English Heritage which concluded that "there is a weight of probability in favour of enabling development being required to secure the 'legitimate objective' of retaining the integrity of the entity."

Update (July 2010)

At a meeting of the Council's Planning and Infrastructure Overview Committee on 8th July it was decided:

The report to the committee is available at the Council's website - here.

The Council's website also notes that it has received a letter from Lord Lloyd Webber indicating a potential interest in buying Highclere Castle. Any such development would be significant to the Council only if an enabling development application were to be made.

Council Defers 'Complex Decision' (Oct 2009)

Following the report from English Heritage (below), council officers continue to work on various matters, for example the role and content of a master plan. The issues are complex and will involve discussion with council members and interested parties before reporting back to the Overview Committee, "hopefully in the first half of 2010". The full update is available on the Council's Highclere Castle Enabling Development page (link above).

Views of English Heritage (July 2009)

In April English Heritage agreed that the Council's proposed policy "might be encouraged" since its "modest approach" accords with its enabling development principles.

Following the council's Overview Committee meeting in April, it wrote to English Heritage with some specific questions. English Heritage (EH) replied on 20th July 2009 with a) Responses to these questions; and b) How the proposed policy might be progressed within the planning system. A synopsis follows. The full 9-page response can be downloaded here (PDF - 325kb).

A. The Framing of the Policy

  1. Is the policy site-specific? EH: the policy does not specify sites for development but only specifies the heritage assets to be sustained.
  2. Does it comply with EH guidance? EH responded to each of the 7 conditions individually, the first four below of which the council claims have been met, and the last three of which have yet to be decided. For the first four, EH concurred that "the policy does not conflict with this criterion".
    • It avoids detrimental fragmentation.
    • It will secure the long-term future. EH: "the broad estimates of cost are reasonable" .. "the efficiency of the management regime has been given a good report"
    • It is necessary to resolve problems arising from the inherent needs of the place rather than the circumstances of the current owner. EH: "Realising commercial value (through break up of the Estate) would be destructive".
    • Sufficient subsidy is not available from any other source. EH: although some support (less than 100%) may be available from EH for specific repair projects, the overall sum "far outstrips what we could possibly provide".
    • It will not materially harm the heritage value. EH: "the proposal envisages some small scale developments" .. "there is no reason to suppose that this criterion would not be complied with when applications are made".
    • It is demonstrated that the amount of enabling development is the minimum necessary. EH: "the amount of enabling development has not yet been determined."
    • The public benefit decisively outweighs the disbenefits". EH: "this judgement cannot yet be made".
  3. Was the brief set by the Council for financial assessment sufficiently rigorous? EH: "The brief was fairly short and entirely to the point". Although some parts could have been made clearer, there was no ambiguity.
  4. Does the financial report give sufficient information for the Council to prove that there is a 'proven need' for enabling development? EH: "The report seems to give very good grounds that Highclere could not raise its income to to achieve more than a fraction of the sum required" .."it might be very useful for all parties if detailed costs could be undertaken in a couple of major instances, as an indication of the reliability of the estimates".
  5. The personal assets of Lord Carnarvon have not been investigated. Is this the correct approach? EH: The criterion of acceptable enabling development "depends on the needs of the place, rather than the circumstances of the owner." Since repairs that benefit the site will also benefit the current owner, there will have to be a more "stringent justification" and "open book" for all applications.
  6. Please comment on the issue of market testing. EH: "Where an entity has been defined, and in this case accepted, as nationally outstanding for Inheritance Tax purposes, there is no requirement for market testing."

B. Highclere Estate as an Enabling Development Case

EH states the general principle in planning that applicants must justify their proposals. Here are the key points:

Decision Deferred (April 2009)

At a special meeting of the council's Environment Overview Committee held at Penwood Village Hall on 29th April, the decision was made to defer the officers' recommendation that the proposed enabling development policy (with some amendments following the public consultation) should be permitted. This is to await the outcome of a meeting of English Heritage's Advisory Committee on 17th June. See also our Chairman's notes on this meeting in the May newsletter. Update (July 2009) - no further announcement is expected until the Autumn.

The Society's Response (April 2009)

Patrick Hedgeland, the Society's Chairman writes:

"Why did the Society push for a stronger Policy rather than outright rejection?"

"The majority view of Society members was, not surprisingly, either against any development or against it unless stronger restrictions were applied. If there was to be development the majority committee view was that the Parish would be better protected by a strong Policy. One reason being that without a Policy the Castle can go straight to a Planning Application that the Borough would have to consider within 8 weeks and thus would not have time to fully consult locally.

Whether we like it or not, and we don't, Enabling Development is the Government's method of funding the upkeep of Historic Entities such as Highclere Castle. If the Borough then refused without solid legal reasons the Government Inspector would likely overthrow their decision. When we studied the Policy we found a number of issues needing modification to meet the requirements for an application or to minimise the amount of development but no 'how stoppers'. We did not believe either that any other organisation had found any legal impediment to stop an application under the Enabling development rules. Therefore your committee decided that our best strategy was to seek further consultation and a strengthening of the Policy. Let us hope the steps being taken produce a better result for our Parish.

To be clear the Borough has no obligation to approve any application resulting from this Enabling Development Policy. The Society will of course therefore make very strong representations as needed on the fine detail of all individual applications. Our twelve year record of good judgement on objections speaks for itself."

Environment Overview Committee Meeting (29th April)

The Council's Environment Overview Committee will meet at Penwood Village Hall on Wednesday 29th April, starting at 6.30pm. This will take the form of a normal Overview Committee meeting, but with an extended period for public speaking so that residents who wish to do so may address the committee members.

The Council Analyses responses (Jan-May 2009)

In January the Council reported receiving 122 responses to its consultation. It noted:

"Many ideas have come forward from local people and these will be discussed with the owners of Highclere in due course. Officers at the council are now considering the responses, which have raised a range of issues."

The results will be reported to the Environment Overview Committee in March who will then consider amendments to the draft policy, which will go before the Cabinet on Tuesday 26th May.

Highclere Society Survey (Nov 2008)

In order to frame its response, the Society issued a questionnaire to members in November. 110 members responded with the following results:

The committee framed its response to BDBC in line with the clear wishes of the voting majority.

Public Consultation (Oct - Dec 2008)

The public consultation on this development was launched at a public meeting, held at Highclere Castle on Monday 13th October at Highclere Castle. Over 100 people attended. The original deadline for responses was 23rd November but this was later extended until 21st December.

The original notice of the launch is reproduced below.

"Highclere Estate is one of the most important collections of historic buildings and landscape in southern England.

It contains Highclere Castle, the Grade 1 Listed early Victorian mansion as well as many fine follies and outbuildings and the wonderful 18th century landscape conceived by Capability Brown.

The Estate has been the home of Carnarvon family for over three hundred years. It is currently managed by the 8th Earl.

Highclere Estate has embarked on a policy of conserving historic buildings and landscape for future generations. To this end it approached Basingstoke and District Borough Council (BDBC) early in 2008 with a view to raising capital via Enabling Development to fund major repairs and to produce income for maintenance in the long term.

Although there has been considerable investment in repairs to the Castle and follies over the last 15 years the rising costs of this work are such that the income of the Estate cannot match the capital cost required. Unless new funds are raised this will undermine the integrity of key buildings in future years.

Following detailed discussions with Highclere Estate, BDBC are considering whether Council Policy be adopted to provide the policy framework for considering future planning applications for the enabling development. A period of public consultation has been agreed from mid October starting with a public meeting at Highclere Castle on the 13th October at 6pm."