Developers will need to get planning permission before demolishing some buildings following a landmark judgment in the Court of Appeal today.
This morning, the court ruled in a case involving heritage body Save Britain's Heritage and the secretary of state for Communities and Local Government. The verdict introduces new controls over demolitions of buildings and structures under UK planning law.
The case involved a decision by Lancaster City Council to authorize the demolition of the historic Mitchell's Brewery building without prior approval. The building has since been listed but the case has remained live as Save Britain's Heritage sought a landmark ruling, following an initial defeat in the High Court last year.
The judgment brings all demolitions within the scope of a European directive - the environmental impact assessment directive - and any proposed demolition that is considered to have significant effects on the environment will be subject to the environmental impact assessment process.
This invalidates more of the secretary of state's ‘demolition direction', which exempts demolition from planning control.
William Palin, secretary of Save Britain's Heritage said: "This is a crucial judgment which will have far reaching effects on the way that local councils deal with demolitions of all types of building. It confirms that the government's interpretation of this important European Directive has hitherto been too narrow and has wrongly excluded demolition from its scope.
We have been arguing for years that it is absurd that a developer can escape the directive by separating demolition from development when it is clear that demolition can and does have serious impacts on the environment."
Daniel Farrand, head of planning at law firm Mishcon de Reya, said: "Developers will even need to review existing unimplemented permissions to make sure that necessary demolition is expressly included or to build in the notification procedure to their project timetables. For those on site today it may be too late but those planning to clear controversial sites ahead of an application may find new barriers in their way."