’Elementary’ Errors By Council See Campaigners Win Battle To Save Sherlock Creator’s Home
Undershaw Redevelopment Plans Quashed By High Court
The man behind a three-year campaign to save the former Surrey home of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is celebrating after winning a high-profile legal challenge to stop the redevelopment of the Grade II listed building.
A judgment handed down at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, following a judicial review brought by public law experts at Irwin Mitchell, states that Waverley Borough Council’s decision to grant planning permission to turn Undershaw into nine separate homes ‘must be quashed’ due to ‘legal flaws’ identified during the process.
The ruling brings an end to a global campaign to fight the redevelopment plans and preserve the history of the property, which was also designed and built by Conan Doyle.
After moving there in 1897, he wrote a number of Holmes stories, including the classic The Hound of the Baskervilles, while also entertaining numerous literary icons including Peter Pan author JM Barrie and Dracula creator Bram Stoker.
John Gibson, the Conan Doyle scholar who founded the Undershaw Preservation Trust in 2009 to oppose the redevelopment plans, gained support from Stephen Fry, Mark Gatiss, the co-creator of the BBC’s Sherlock and the area’s local MP and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt during his tireless campaign against the permission granted to developer Fossway.
Reacting to the news, Mr Gibson said: “This has been a long and difficult battle to save Undershaw and we are absolutely thrilled with the decision to quash planning permission to redevelop the property. This is a place which is steeped in history and should be treated with reverence.
“Conan Doyle’s life and works are a fundamental part of British culture and arguably their stock has never been higher. We have been absolutely delighted to see enthusiasts from across the world get in touch and pledge their support to our efforts.
“We are very hopeful that this decision will signal a sea-change in attitude towards this historic property and that it will lead to it being rightly preserved as a single building – hopefully as a museum or centre where future generations can be inspired by the many stories which have been created within its walls.”
Andrew Lockley, Head of Public Law at Irwin Mitchell who has represented Mr Gibson throughout his legal battle to save Undershaw, said: “We have had long-held concerns that basic errors were made by Waverley Borough Council in its decision to grant planning permission on Undershaw and this view has now been absolutely vindicated.
“The local authority failed to ensure that it received English Heritage’s views on the plans before taking its decision, despite consultation with EH being a legal requirement due to the property’s Grade II listed status.
“In addition, the council failed in its duty to reconsider the Fossway development plans following the submission of a second application on the property which would see it maintained as a single dwelling.
“Today’s decision means it is now back to the drawing board in terms of the future of Undershaw but, like John, we hope to see this property of huge cultural and historical significance preserved and treated in the manner it deserves.”