Plans to redevelop the former Cummins Social Club in Stamford pose a “very high” danger of damage to a medieval stone barn, a court has heard.
The Cecil Estate Family Trust has challenged the plan to knock down the building in Blackfriars Street and build a four-storey office block in its place. Lawyers from the trust told Mr Justice Holgate in the High Court today (Tuesday) that South Kesteven District Council should never have granted planning permission for the development.
The plans for the new building, known as The Hub, were submitted by digital investment firm Haatch and approved in September.
In court, lawyers for the trust said the social club building was physically attached to a listed stone wall and medieval barn next door. The redevelopment plans include excavating a basement for the office block, and the trust claims this could result in damage to or even the collapse of the barn and wall.
The court heard that the trust had been told it would be impossible to excavate the basement and build the new office block without there being a “very high” likelihood of harm to the medieval barn and wall. The trust claims the development would result in the neighbouring garden and barn being overlooked, which it is not at present.
The trust claims that, in granting planning permission, the council failed to comply with its duty to protect listed buildings under the Listed Buildings Act 1990, and failed to take all material considerations into account - including the overlooking problem and the likely harm the trust says will be caused.
It argues that the effect on its property should have been very carefully considered, but that the council failed to do so.
Lawyers for the council argued that the decision was lawfully made and should be upheld. They said that councillors had sufficient material before them to assess the impact on the setting of the listed buildings, and that the need to protect private rights, such as securing the barn and the wall during construction work, would be dealt with by the provisions of the Party Walls Act and was not a planning consideration.
Mr Justice Holgate is expected to reserve judgment and give a written decision later.
Haatch, founded by former Kiddicare chief executive Scott Weavers-Wright, is currently using part of the former social club, but has applied to change the use of the whole building so it can use the entire floor space. Planning law allows the firm to use a small area of the existing building for two years. But the company is concerned the legal proceedings may take longer, so has applied for the change of use.
According to the planning application, Haatch is only allowed to use 150sq m of the building, or about half of the ground floor main space.
Haatch provides investment for digital startup companies. The idea behind the digital hub is to give these companies a space to work.
So far it has supported a number of firms including Pijon, which sells monthly care packages for students, and retail technology platform Elevaate.
FURTHER READING: Haatch applies to use former social club in Stamford.