Full planning permission was sought by Hayfield Homes Construction for 40 affordable new homes on land north of Aston in West Oxfordshire District.

The application was refused in a number of grounds including the less than substantial harmful effect on the significance of Aston Conservation Area and grade II Church of St James in Aston not being outweighed by the public benefits.

The Appeal was heard at a Public Inquiry in June 2023, by which time it had been agreed with the Council in the heritage Statement of Common Ground that the effect on the church was a low level less than harmful effect and that the effect on the Conservation Area was also less than substantial harm but the levels of herm with the less than substantial range was not agreed. The NPPF paragraph 202 balance of heritage harm against public benefits was not agreed with the Council’s position being that the heritage harm outweighed the public benefits.

The Inspector concluded that

“… the delivery of 40 affordable housing units in an area where there is a substantial identified need for both market and affordable housing is sufficient to outweigh the limited harm identified to the significance of the listed building, both individually and in combination with the harm to the conservation area. This is notwithstanding the desirability of preserving the listed building and its setting and the need to attach considerable importance and weight to the asset’s conservation.”

In relation to heritage matters, the Inspector also stated

“My conclusions align with the professionally prepared Historic Environment Desk-Based Assessment (2022) and subsequent expert evidence prepared by the appellant, which I found to be compelling.”

This outcome demonstrates the importance of meticulous built heritage assessment of the potential effects of development on the heritage significance of nearby Conservation Areas and listed buildings.

Orion’s MD Rob Bourn was the heritage expert witness and the barrister was Giles Cannock KC. The Historic Environment Desk-Based Assessment was produced by Orion’s Hayley Goacher and Robin Sheehan.

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