HISTORIC building’s group Save Britain’s Heritage has applied to the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge the High Court’s dismissal of legal action against the demolition of Garway’s Victorian school building.

The group’s legal battle follows a campaign backed by villagers against the Herefordshire Council’s decision to allow Wonastow farmer Gerard Davies to pull down the 1877 Old School building, and replace it with ‘hardstanding’ under Permitted Development Rights (PDR) last April.

Residents claim the structure has been allowed to become rundown, despite planning permission being granted in 2013 to convert it into homes.

And they fearthe demolition could be a precursor for a planning application to build new homes, with the rural village having already seen considerable recent modern development.

SAVE launched a Judicial Review proceedings in response to the April decision, culminating in a one-day hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on London’s Strand on November 9.

A spokesperson said: “We argued that the council had failed to properly assess whether the school was unsafe or uninhabitable, a key test when deciding whether to permit applications under PDR.

“In order for the demolition to be allowed under PDR – a planning mechanism which bypasses the need for full planning permission – a building must not have been rendered unsafe or uninhabitable as a result of the owner’s own neglect (action or inaction).

“SAVE’s view is that the council did not apply the correct test when considering whether the PDR “right to demolition” applied to Garway School.

Our application to the Court of Appeal has been assembled by leading planning barrister Richard Harwood KC and solicitor Susan Ring of Harrison Grant Ring.

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: “This case raises important issues around the rights of owners to demolish buildings without full planning permission.

“The Court of Appeal has an opportunity to provide clarity on the threshold of ‘uninhabitable buildings’ under the current regulations, and could therefore have far-reaching consequences for the future of thousands of unprotected historic buildings in England.

“We hope the Court of Appeal grants us permission to proceed with the appeal.”

Following the lodging of the application, the next step will be a decision from the Court of Appeal on whether the case can proceed to a full appeal, which could take three months.

If permission is granted, then the case will proceed to a full hearing before three judges.

SAVE has argued that the historic school is a perfect candidate for repair and reuse as housing, as in line with the planning permission granted nine years ago for two houses.

This permission was left to lapse, despite “an almost identical precedent scheme” to convert the 1877 (same year as Garway) schoolhouse in nearby Norton Skenfrith which remains fully occupied.

Over 100 objections were lodged against the successful planning bid to bulldoze the Victorian sandstone building.

Residents say a “concrete field” opposite the modern community centre will be an “eyesore”, while there was no indication about what the applicant intended to do with the site in the long-term.