The owners of an ancient medieval stone barn in Stamford have triumphed in High Court moves to thwart plans to redevelop the former Cummins Social Club in Stamford and turn it into a digital hub.
One of the country’s top judges today (Friday) quashed the planning permission for demolition of building in Blackfriars Street and build a four-storey office block in its place on what he described as a “narrow point of statutory construction”.
Today’s ruling by Mr Justice Holgate means that South Kesteven District Council, which approved the plans by digital investment firm Haatch in September, will have to reconsider the planning application for the redevelopment, which the barn’s owners the Cecil Estate Family Trust, said posed a “very high” danger of damage to the barn.
But the judge expressed “astonishment” to be informed that lawyers representing the owners of the property next door, which includes the barn, had run up bills of more than £75,000 in bringing the case to court.
He said: “I am astonished by this costs bill. The number of hours spent by the firm of solicitors for a case of this kind, taking one day, is frankly astonishing. I do not see how you can justify costs of this kind.”
He added that the solicitors were claiming expenses for “nearly 180 hours” working on the case, but nevertheless ordered the district council to pay £30,000 towards the costs claimed.
In its challenge The Cecil Estate Family Trust claimed that the barn and a stone wall on their neighbouring property are listed and that the redevelopment plans would include excavating a basement for the office block. They argued that this could result in damage or even the collapse of the barn and wall.
The barn is physically attached to the existing club building, and they say the trust said it had been advised that 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.
Haatch, founded by former Kiddicare chief executive Scott Weavers-Wright, is currently using part of the former social club. It 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.