Midford Castle is a Grade I 18th century Gothick-style country house situated within a rural, wooded portion of Bath’s Green Belt, the Cotswolds AONB, and the indicative and landscape setting of the City of Bath World Heritage Site. To the north of Midford Castle is a cluster of ancillary Grade II* early 19th century outhouses, including the Stables and Old Chapel. These are considered to positively contribute to the aesthetic and evidential understanding of Midford Castle’s function in the late Georgian period whilst enhancing the setting of this heritage asset of the highest significance. The Castle stands on an elevated platform, and the sloping parkland and scrub falling away contributes to its colossal prominence in the landscape, visible from areas such as Midford Lane.
2021 – Proposals for Development of Second Agricultural Building & Ground-Mounted Solar Array in Landscape Setting of Listed Buildings
Further application 21/01555/FUL proposed the construction of a second agricultural barn and a PV solar array to provide green, off-grid energy for the use of the castle. BPT recognised the challenges of heating such a large group of buildings and acknowledged that the applicant sought a more sustainable, innovative solution for self-sustainable means of heating and hot water generation on the site. Our main concerns focused on the height and scale of the proposed agricultural barn and insufficient justification.
Read our response to the 2021 planning application here.
This application was refused on grounds that development would constitute inappropriate Green Belt development. The case officer concluded that there was insufficient justification for the proposal, nor enough evidence that the barn would be agricultural in use. The scale of the proposed barn was considered to impact on the openness of the Green Belt.
This refusal was subsequently appealed; the inspector summarised that the development would constitute inappropriate development within the Green Belt, would fail to conserve and enhance the landscape and scenic beauty of the AONB, and cause less than substantial harm to the significance of Midford Castle. The combined weight of harm was not considered to be outweighed by public benefit or demonstrated special circumstances. Read the full appeal decision here.
2020 – Enforcement Action Taken Against Planning Breach & Appeal
Construction of the agricultural barn started in 2021. Local residents identified that development on the site was in breach of the permitted plans and was a much larger, more visually prominent building. An enforcement notice was issued, which was subsequently appealed against by the the landowner. BPT called for the appeal to be dismissed on grounds that the barn as-built was clearly in breach of planning permission, and its built height, scale, and massing would be clearly be of detriment to the setting of a group of high significance listed buildings. We highlighted that the initial design prior to revisions was considered to have a detrimental impact on the setting of the Castle by the conservation officer. Read our full appeal statement here. The appeal is pending a decision as of October 2023.
2019/2020 – Planning Application for Proposed Development of Agricultural Building in Landscape Setting of Listed Buildings
Application 19/03415/FUL proposed the construction of an agricultural building on the site and associated landscaping works, part of which included the removal of an unauthorised spoil heap to the south of the castle. The barn would allow for the relocation of the biomass boiler from the castle basement whilst also being used to store hot water storage tanks and timber. BPT maintained an objection on grounds that the barn would intrude into the sensitive landscape setting of an interconnected group of listed buildings. Unauthorised clearance of the site had already resulted in the thinning of the historic woodland to the west.
Read our response to the 2019 planning application here.
Revisions were made to the application to further set the proposed agricultural barn below ground level. Whilst we welcomed efforts to recess the barn into the hillside to minimise visibility, we considered the scheme would still result in visual harm to the significance and setting of the castle.
Read our revised comments here.
This scheme was ultimately granted planning permission in 2020; the case officer concluded that aspects of the scheme, such as removing the biomass boiler and associated fire risk from inside a Grade I building, would represent “very special circumstances”. The revised building design and landscaping scheme were considered to meet initial concerns regarding visual and landscape harm.