Sherlock Holmes house: High Court challenge fails

Image caption Conan Doyle wrote The Return of Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles at Undershaw

A High Court challenge against a plan to redevelop the former Surrey home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has failed.

Work is already under way on converting Undershaw, at Hindhead, into new premises for the nearby Stepping Stones school for children with disabilities.

The Undershaw Preservation Trust challenged a decision made by Waverley Borough Council to give the go-ahead.

The case against the local planning authority was rejected by Mr Justice Foskett sitting in London on Wednesday.

The Grade II-listed building, where Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, had been used as a hotel since the 1920s until it was left empty in 2005, falling into disrepair.

'Other viable uses'

In his ruling, Mr Justice Foskett, said planning permission and listed building consent was applied for by the DFN Charitable Foundation, which now owns the site.

He said the plan was to "develop the site in accordance with the planning permission", and that since 2005 the site, including the house, had "lain dormant and the structural condition of the buildings has deteriorated".

The "current permission is for a change of use from hotel to educational use with... the erection of extensions and the carrying out of alterations following demolition of a modern extension and associated works", he added.

Dismissing the judicial review action, the judge said that in his view the planning committee was "amply justified in proceeding on the basis that single residential use was not a viable option however optimum it might be in theory".

The judge added that he did not consider the committee's decision "was undermined by what I take to be the claimant's contention that it failed to have regard to a 'viable' educational use that was less harmful to the heritage asset than the proposal in the applications before it".

He rejected argument that the council had "failed adequately to consider other viable uses".

There has been no comment from the Undershaw Preservation Trust.

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