Judge throws out objections to new build on Seil

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The owners of a country house which used to be the home of Frances Shand Kydd, Princess Diana’s mother, have lost a legal bid to stop a property being built, which they claimed would be ‘a high profile intrusion on the skyline’.

Plans for the development on the Isle of Seil, near Oban, attracted an objection claiming it would have a significant landscape and visual impact and would be particularly noticeable from the north west of the 18th century Ardencaple House, which lies about 1.5kms away.

Frances Shand Kydd used to stay at the listed property which was originally built for a local laird.

The objection pointed out that the new build will be prominent on a ridge line and would be the ‘only man-made feature across an otherwise natural panorama of interlocking ridges against a backdrop of Barr Aille on the mainland.

It was made on behalf of the one of the trustees, Julian Taylor, and suggested that the planning application must not be decided until a site visit was made to the B-listed house by a council case officer.

The case officer discussed the matter with a superior and it was decided that a visit to the house was unnecessary.

The proprietors of the house, Colin Liddell, and others raised a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh of the decision by Argyll and Bute Council to grant planning permission for the erection of the dwelling house last year, seeking to have the decision set aside.

In the action, it was alleged that the local authority failed to consider the desirability of preserving a listed building and its setting.

But Lord Boyd of Duncansby said: ‘I am satisfied that there is no error of law in the decision made by the respondents (the council). Nor is the decision irrational.’

The judge said that statements provided by the case officer, Fiona Scott, showed she was familiar with the area and visited three times in connection with the proposed development.

Lord Boyd said: ‘While it is true that she did not visit Ardencaple House itself, despite being asked to do so, she did in fact walk half way towards the house, during the visit on the pre-application assessment.

‘She said that she was satisfied that development within the development zone would not affect Ardencaple House or its setting and gave her reasons for her opinion.

‘I am not satisfied that Ms Scott’s failure to visit the house amounts to a failure to take into account a material consideration or was irrational.

‘I agree with counsel for the respondent that it would be an odd and unwelcome development in planning law if courts were to tell planning officers that before they could make a professional judgement on whether the setting of a listed building was affected by a development they must visit the building itself.’

In the action, the proprietors of Ardencaple maintained that it was ‘designed and positioned especially to capture the uninterrupted aspect of the panoramic quality of a segment of the isle of Seil facing southwest towards a ridge, located at a distance of approximately 1.5km away from the house’.

They said: ‘It’s immediate curtilage faces south west towards the ridge upon which the proposed development would be built.

‘There will be no backdrop of the proposed development save for the very distant hills. It will therefore stand out as a high profile intrusion on the skyline, clearly visible from Ardencaple House.’

The council maintained that the skyline was not affected by the development because of a backdrop of much higher land.