Ringwood Hall: a curious planning decision?

The borough council’s planning officers have recently refused an application from the owner of the Ringwood Hall Hotel to convert a derelict kitchen garden some distance from the main house (which is grade II listed) into a spa.

Ringwood Hall’s derelict kitchen gardens (Philip Cousins).

We find this decision a little surprising. The kitchen garden is not itself listed and the application was therefore for planning permission, not listed building consent. One of the council’s conservation officers, in a report on the application, has treated it as a listed building application, since it relates to a structure within the curtilage of a listed building. This seems to us an odd approach. There is in fact some doubt as to whether one wall of the kitchen garden is listed or not.

The report refers to the glasshouses within the walls of the kitchen garden and suggests that they are of historic interest. In our own submission, made following a visit by three Civic Society members, we pointed out that not only do they look obviously recent, but they bear no relation to the layout shown on the 1918 large-scale Ordnance Survey map.

The council report complains that there is no heritage assessment included with the application, but it is not clear why one is need for a planning application to alter an unlisted building of no special interest. Such documents are in any case, as we have often observed, rarely of any value.

The report describes the Civic Society as ‘generally supportive’ of the application. That is not in fact what we said. We strongly supported a scheme to bring back into beneficial use a derelict and unsightly part of what is otherwise a very attractive estate and a popular hotel. There were no objections to the scheme from either other consultees or members of the public. As quoted in the Derbyshire Times, the manager of the Ringwood Hall Hotel has tactfully expressed thanks for the thorough and constructive comments made by the council, and has indicated that his company proposes to resubmit the application. We hope that next time it will be granted.

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