Victory for Hope as Planning Inspectorate throws out developers appeal

Hope saved again as appeal rejected
Hope saved again as appeal rejected

In July 2015 a bid by Land Promotions Ltd to demolish the Hope Inn and replace it with a block of 22 apartments was opposed by local residents and Westover councillors yet despite SDC officers recommending in favour, the Sedgemoor Planning Committee backed the campaigners and refused planning permission. However, the Developer refused to accept the decision and went to appeal. On 17 December the Planning Inspectorate completed it’s review of the case and came down strongly on the side of the campaigners with a verdict that “…the proposal would not represent a design which responds to the distinctive character of the area, in a contemporary manner. It would therefore harm the character and appearance of that area.”

Cllr Brian Smedley
Cllr Brian Smedley “”Developers really need to consult with the community first”

The decision was described as a ‘victory’ by local councillors. Cllr Brian Smedley (Westover) said “This is an important victory in our campaign to stop developers riding roughshod over the wishes of local people. Whatever happens to the Hope has to be with the support of the people of Bridgwater and wherever they try this tactic of ‘wrecking first ask questions later’ they need to know that people will stand up to them and they can’t have it all their own way.”

Kathy Pearce
‘Vindication of the committee system” Cllr Kathy Pearce

Cllr Kathy Pearce (Westover) added “It’s also a vindication of the Committee system because the Officer recommendation was to go along with the demolition but because we opposed it and insisted it went to committee, councillors – of all parties – were able to have their say and residents views were taken into account and the result was an overturning of the recommendation. By going to appeal the developer simply assumed he could ignore the wishes of the people . We asked him over a year ago to sit down and talk with us about his plans but he refused and just went ahead. Now this has proved very costly to him and he’s had to think again. That said I would ask them again to come to talk to us and consult before you  do anything. ”

The Appeal explained

Land Promotions ltd – who have been the key developers in several similar pub sites around the town, had proposed “…the demolition of a public house (A5) with ancillary dwelling (C3) and erection of a block of 22 (C3) apartments comprising 15 no. 2 bedroom apartments, 7 no. 1 bedroom 2 person apartments, with parking and amenity space”.

hope old
The Hope inn has been an iconic building on the south side of Bridgwater for almost a century

Ward councillors, however, made a case against based on character and appearance which found support within the committee whose recommendation concluded “The main issue is therefore the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area and the proposed design in terms of its architectural style and details. It considers the dormer windows to be excessive, the flat roofs to be out of character with the area and the corner mono-pitch roof to be bulky and discordant when seen with the other elevations and the area.”

The Hope was initially registered as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). However, no purchasers came forward and in the light of the marketing and viability report, the Council did not resist its demolition.

The Decision explained

The Inspector commented “ I appreciate from the responses sent in that many people were fond of the existing building. Indeed it is a splendid 1930’s mock Tudor building, which turns the corner with admirable panache. Its now half demolished mock Tudor gables and deep roof profile are still a landmark feature along this busy road. I also saw that some of the terraces along this stretch of main road were of very high quality and that there was a remarkable unity of materials, especially the brickwork and the roof tiles. Many different versions of inventive decorative façades can be seen, especially with the use of high quality brickwork, distinctive gabled dormers and decorated door hoods. Building lines are uniform, with consistent groups of terraces having either small low-walled forecourts or being set hard on the back edge of pavements. The odd exception to this does not have a damaging effect. Whilst this area is not a conservation area, it nonetheless has a distinctive character.”

Dormers and monopitch roof

Hope Inn
Hope Inn, Taunton road- before the roof came off

The inspector further criticised the “ Heavy appearance of the dormers” saying there is ” ..a strong tradition of dormers in the locality; although some poor quality ones can be seen here and there. The area is consistently two or two and a half (into gables) domestic floors in scale, with strong patterns of pitched roofs, broken by gable features in certain terraces. The incorporation of dormers in a faux-mansard would be particularly at odds with the character of the area and is not a truly contemporary or innovative approach in its own right.”

Further criticism was made by the inspector of the proposed “monopitch roof” which would be “ significantly at odds with the almost consistently double pitched roof forms in the area” and would “ create an alien feature in the street scene which would be unduly prominent on all three floors”

Local materials

and after the roof came off....
and after the roof came off….

The Inspector added “ A key determinant of quality is the use of good quality materials. The use of local bricks and roofing tiles would help tie the building into the street scene. However, I have reservations about the suggested use of simulated boarding, which I saw used elsewhere nearby. This type of simulated material negates the reason for using timber, (for its natural weathering and its sustainability) and it does not convince the eye as a natural product. However, high quality materials could be justifiably required by the Council when discharging a condition.”

Discordant composition

The Inspector also picked up on a point missed by the Council with reference to the effect on the immediately adjacent property at 88 Taunton Road noting “ No 88 (Taunton road) is a constituent part of the construction of the pub, as can be seen from the continuous brickwork and roof line. It is proposed to demolish the existing pub structure up to the side of 88, leaving this small terraced house projecting forward of the new building line by approximately 1.7m as measured on the proposed plans. It is already forward of the adjacent terrace to the south. ….This discordant composition would be unattractive and over dominant in the street scene.”

Poor quality setting

Artist's impression of the proposed 'Hope Inn' development
Artist’s impression of the proposed ‘Hope Inn’ development

The Inspector also accepted the points made about parking and increased traffic impact commenting that “ The proposed staggered building line would be out of keeping with street scene and the unenclosed, area of forecourt would be at odds with the character of forecourts in this location and represents a poor layout in terms of defensible space. The main forecourt would also be unenclosed and would be dominated by parked cars, all but for one small area of planting, part of which would have to be maintained at a low height for the vision splay. This is an indication that there is a requirement for too many cars on the site. Whilst the pub car park was a large area of tarmac, this does not justify a poor quality setting for the proposed building.”


The conclusion of the report states that “The proposed design, because of its over dominant dormers, three storey element on the corner, monopitch roof and staggered building line, poor relationship with the adjacent property at 88, and over dominant car parking, would be at odds with the character of the area. It would fail to represent high quality design, or be responsive to local identity.It would therefore be contrary to the aims of Sedgemoor District Core Strategy 2011 (Core Strategy) policy P1 (Bridgwater Urban Area) and policy D2 (Promoting high quality and inclusive design). These policies both broadly require that development has high quality sustainable design which responds positively to and reflects the particular local characteristics. Policy D5 (Housing) requires housing to be of high quality sustainable design, compatible with the scale, accessibility needs and character of its location. These policies reflect the broad aims of the National Planning Policy Framework which states that developments should respond to local character and history and reflect the identity of local surroundings and materials, whilst not preventing or discouraging appropriate innovation. The Framework warns, in paragraph 60, that decisions should not attempt to impose architectural styles or particular tastes, but that it is proper to reinforce local identity.”

and so now what?? Maybe let's talk.
and so now what?? Maybe let’s talk.

In conclusion the Inspector commented “ I have found that the proposal would not represent a design which responds to the distinctive character of the area, in a contemporary manner. It would therefore harm the character and appearance of that area. I acknowledge that the proposal would provide much needed single occupancy and small family accommodation in a sustainable location within walking and cycling distance to shops, employment and services. However, this could be provided in a different design approach, so this would not outweigh the harm caused to the character and appearance of the area. For the reasons given above I conclude that the appeal should be dismissed.”