Case law - Alternative to a project harming heritage assets

7th July 2016

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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Built environment ,
  • Planning ,
  • UK government


Paula Marshall

In Whitby v Secretary of State for Transport & Ors, the Court of Appeal examined the manner in which an inspector and secretaries of state rejected an alternative proposal in favour of a development that would cause substantial harm to designated heritage assets.

The development was for the construction of an elevated chord railway (Ordsall Chord) in Manchester, which would substantially harm several Grade I and Grade II heritage assets. An alternative route (Option 15), which would avoid damaging the listed buildings, was ruled out because it ran through Middlewood Locks, a large vacant site Salford City Council was seeking to develop as part of its plan to regenerate central Salford.

The inspector found the issue was not whether the benefits of Ordsall Chord outweighed harm to Middlewood Locks but whether Option 15 provided a reasonable alternative. The inspector applied the two-strand test in para 133 of the National Planning Policy Framework, noting: the Ordsall Chord would result in substantial harm to heritage assets, but would leave the primary assets intact; and Option 15 was not a reasonable means of achieving the public benefits and providing a reasonable alternative, primarily because of the serious consequences for the regeneration of central Salford.

The court agreed with the manner in which the inspector applied the test and found it was ‘undeniably open’ to him to bring the harm to the redevelopment of Middlewood Locks and the regeneration of central Salford into account when assessing the merits of Option 15.


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