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Arthur Conan Doyle’s Former Home Saved by Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law & Human Rights Team

Specialist Public Law solicitors at Irwin Mitchell have successfully challenged a planning decision to allow developers to partially demolish the former home of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Undershaw, and turn it into eight separate houses.

The Judicial Review of the decision of Waverley Borough Council was brought on behalf of Conan Doyle scholar John Gibson, who established the Undershaw Preservation Trust.

Irwin Mitchell argued that the decision to grant planning and listed building consent to the developer Fossway was unlawful, claiming that despite being a Grade II listed building, English Heritage were not made aware of the plans - when planning law stipulates it must be told so that it has an opportunity to comment. It was also found that the planning committee ignored a second application, while they were considering the Fossway development which would have retained the building as a single dwelling. The local authority was misinformed about the interest in purchasing Undershaw for use as a single dwelling, making its decisions on the mistaken premise that there had been no response to a marketing campaign when in fact an offer to do just that had been made but has been turned down by Fossway.

It was also argued that the planning committee were not correctly advised in relation to a viable alternative plan for the property which had received planning permission and would have kept the building as a single dwelling while preserving all options for the future. Because of these legal flaws, it was held that the council's decisions to grant planning permission and listed building consent must be quashed.

The Judge said that Fossway had bought the property 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. Furthermore, he said that lawyers for the council had made it clear that it wanted to preserve Undershaw, which was apparent from the amount of money spent to make it secure after Fossway had neglected the building.

Anne-Marie Irwin, a human rights solicitor in Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law & Human Rights team, said: "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." 

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