Following the dismissal of an appeal by Rothesay hotel owner Harry Greene this week against refusal of planning permission for UPVC windows at the Bute House Hotel in the centre of the town, here we publish the decision by Scottish Government reporter Scott Ferrie in full.
Mr Ferrie writes as follows.
I dismiss the appeal and refuse planning permission.
1. Having regard to the development plan, the determining issues in this appeal are the impacts of the proposed replacement windows on the listed building and the conservation area; and whether those impacts would be outweighed by other considerations.
Impact on the listed building
2. Bute House is a category C listed building, occupying an important position in Rothesay town centre. It has street frontages on three sides and faces towards (and is clearly visible from) Guildford Square, just adjacent to the main entrance to the island from the ferry port. The building is constructed of sandstone which is currently painted, with a slated roof. It provides retail shops on the ground floor and hotel accommodation on the upper three floors. The regularly spaced windows, currently traditional timber sash and case, are an important and attractive characteristic of the building. The proposal entails the replacement of these windows with UPVC double glazed windows.
3. Scottish Historic Environment Policy (SHEP) sets out Scottish Ministers’ policy for the control of work affecting listed buildings. It states at paragraph 3.40 a presumption against works which would adversely affect the special interest of a listed building. Further guidance on altering the windows of listed buildings is provided in Historic Scotland’s Managing Change in the Historic Environment: Windows guidance note. This states that windows make a significant contribution to the character and integrity of most listed buildings.
It is stated at paragraph 4.3 that repair of components on a like-for-like basis is preferable to the replacement of a whole window unit. Where there is no alternative to repair, replacement windows should match the originals, including proportion and opening method. Changes in framing materials should be avoided. The introduction of double glazing is not ruled out in certain circumstances, particularly where it can be demonstrated that the existing windows are beyond repair and that the new windows will match the originals as closely as possible.
4. The existing windows appear to me, based on my external inspection of the building from street level, to be in reasonable condition for their age. I have been provided with no evidence whatever that the existing windows are beyond repair, nor even that they are beyond economic repair. Other than the appellants’ obvious desire that they be replaced, I have no indication of why such replacement is necessary.
5. In that context, I note that although the proportions and method of opening of the replacement windows would reflect those of the existing windows, the framing materials would be UPVC rather than timber as existing. In addition, the glazing units would be double glazed. In my experience, such replacement windows rarely, if ever, replicate the appearance of traditional timber sliding sash and case windows to any acceptable degree. They would appear as a noticeably discordant feature in the otherwise attractive and prominent main elevations of the building.
6. I find on this issue that the proposed replacement windows would fail to preserve the listed building. The proposal, in the circumstances outlined above, would not accord with SHEP or with the Managing Change in the Historic Environment: Windows guidance note. It would consequently be contrary to policies STRAT DC 9 of the approved Argyll and Bute Structure Plan and LP ENV 13(a) of the adopted Argyll and Bute Local Plan, which together seek to preserve listed buildings.
7. In reaching this conclusion I take support from the council’s non-statutory Rothesay Window Policy Statement, which presumes against alternative materials to timber, such as UPVC, which cannot adequately reproduce historic detail and character. In the event that replacement windows in the appeal property became unavoidable, the policy statement indicates that replacement windows be timber sliding sash and case. As noted above, there is no evidence that replacement of the existing windows is unavoidable; nor would the replacement window frames be of timber construction.
Impact on the conservation area
8. The appeal property occupies a prominent position within the Rothesay Conservation Area. This has a mixed character with a variety of building lines and heights, comprising typical Scottish burgh architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries with more recent modifications. Storey heights vary considerably, with the appeal property being higher than most buildings at four storeys. In general terms, regularly spaced windows contribute significantly to the appearance of buildings and consequently the character of the conservation area.
9. That contribution has, however, been eroded to a significant degree by the introduction of non-traditional replacement windows throughout the conservation area. The appellant and some of the representees point to this and contend that the council’s policy in this regard has not been effectively policed and that, essentially, it would be unfair not to allow the use of non-traditional windows in this case.
10. The preponderance of non-traditional windows in this part of the conservation area was clearly evident during my inspection of the appeal property and its surroundings. I have no clear evidence on the circumstances relating to those other replacement windows. I do note, however, that a Townscape Heritage Initiative is currently ongoing in the conservation area, and take this as evidence of the council and others endeavouring to improve the character and appearance of the conservation area. In these circumstances, I find that it would be quite inappropriate to sanction the introduction of so many inappropriately designed windows at such a prominent location within the conservation area, particularly where no justification has been provided that such replacement is necessary.
11. I find on this issue that the proposal would adversely affect the character and appearance of the conservation area, contrary to policies STRAT DC 9 of the approved Argyll and Bute Structure Plan and LP ENV 14 of the adopted Argyll and Bute Local Plan, which together seek to protect the character or appearance of conservation areas.
12. I note the comments of representees that the proposal represents a welcome investment in the tourism infrastructure, and consequently in the economy, of the town. In this regard I note that SHEP states at paragraph 1.8 that: “The protection of the historic environment is not about preventing change. Ministers believe that change in this dynamic environment should be managed intelligently and with understanding, to achieve the best outcome for the historic environment and for the people of Scotland. Such decisions often have to recognise economic realities.”
13. In the event that a convincing case had been made for the replacement of the windows, I would be bound to afford due weight to the costs and economic benefits of the proposal. In this case, however, there is no evidence that the windows require to be replaced, nor any indication of the comparative costs of the proposal against repair, or replacement with more appropriately designed windows.
14. I conclude overall that any beneficial impact of the proposal on the marketability of the hotel, and consequently on the local economy, is outweighed by the deficiencies of the proposal which I have outlined above.