PRESS RELEASE: SAVE seeks Court of Appeal permission to challenge historic school demolition

SAVE Britain’s Heritage will argue demolition was approved without correct process

19th December 2022

SAVE Britain’s Heritage has applied to the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge the High Court’s dismissal of legal action against the demolition of a historic school in rural Herefordshire.

Our legal battle follows a sustained campaign against the decision by Herefordshire Council to allow demolition of the 1877 School Building in the village of Garway under Permitted Development Rights (PDR) in April this year.

SAVE launched Judicial Review proceedings in response to the decision, culminating in a one-day hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on London’s Strand on 9th November 2022. At the hearing, we argued that the council had failed to properly assess whether the school was unsafe or uninhabitable, a key test when deciding whether to permit applications under PDR.

In order for the demolition of a building to be allowed under PDR - a planning mechanism which bypasses the need for full planning permission - a building must not have been rendered unsafe or uninhabitable as a result of the owner’s own neglect (action or inaction). SAVE’s view is that the council did not apply the correct test when considering whether the PDR “right to demolition” applied to Garway School.

Our application to the Court of Appeal has been assembled by leading planning barrister Richard Harwood KC and solicitor Susan Ring of Harrison Grant Ring.

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: “This case raises important issues around the rights of owners to demolish buildings without full planning permission. The Court of Appeal has an opportunity to provide clarity on the threshold of ‘uninhabitable buildings’ under the current regulations, and could therefore have far-reaching consequences for the future of thousands of unprotected historic buildings in England. We hope the Court of Appeal grants us permission to proceed with the appeal.”

Following the lodging of our application, the next step in the process will be a decision from the Court of Appeal on whether to permit our case to proceed to a full appeal, which is likely to take up to three months. If permission to appeal is granted, then our case would proceed to a full hearing before three Court of Appeal judges.  

SAVE has consistently argued that the historic school is a perfect candidate for repair and reuse as housing. Indeed planning permission was granted to the current owner in 2013 for conversion of the building into two houses. This permission was left to lapse, despite there being an almost identical precedent scheme to convert the 1877 (same year as Garway) schoolhouse in the nearby village of Norton Skenfrith which remains fully occupied. 


The legal battle follows a two-year campaign where SAVE has worked closely with the local community who have strongly opposed the proposed loss of the school building, which is one of the village’s last remaining historic buildings. We had previously supported the council’s refusal of the owner’s first application to demolish the buildings in 2021 and its subsequent and detailed application to Historic England for the buildings to be granted protection by heritage listing. Historic England ultimately decided not to list the building but did emphasise the quality of the structure as being of high local historic and architectural interest. 


Located within the idyllic setting of rural Herefordshire, Garway Old School (as it is now known) was originally built as a ‘board school’, consisting of a schoolhouse with an adjoining residence for the headteacher. Designed in a decorative Gothic style by local architect E.H. Lingen Barker, the school was completed in 1877, and opened in 1878 with 50 schoolchildren.

Most board schools built at the time were concentrated in large cities where education provision was worse, which makes the Old School in Garway a rare example for such a small, rural village.

Prior to 1870, the local vicar educated the children of Garway in the Chapel of St Michael’s Church. Following the Education Act of 1870, the Skenfrith School Board was established in 1874 and it was decided that a board school should be built in the village with a teacher’s residence provided nearby. The architect appointed, E.H. Linger Barker, was Herefordshire born and had experience of designing schools in London. He also designed schools in Grosmont, New Inn (Cross Ash) and Norton, all across the Welsh border, for the Skenfrith School Board.

His design for Garway consisted of a large schoolroom with tall windows, a smaller schoolroom, and an adjoining headmaster’s residence. There were two entrance lobbies, possibly to provide separate entrances for boys and girls. The building was multi-gabled and constructed of coursed rubble ashlar with a slate roof and crested roof tiles. The main schoolhouse displays external decoration which distinguishes it from the rest of the building such as a shield with the date 1877, Gothic brick hoodmoulds and recessed glazed quatrefoils.


Note to editors

1. For more information and images contact SAVE Britain's Heritage: / 020 7253 3500.

2. SAVE Britain’s Heritage is an independent voice in conservation that fights for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses. We stand apart from other organisations by bringing together architects, engineers, planners and investors to offer viable alternative proposals. Where necessary, and with expert advice, we take legal action to prevent major and needless losses.

3. Too Good to Lose: Historic Schools at Risk is a publication by SAVE Britain's Heritage which looks at the alarming number of Victorian, Edwardian and inter-war schools at risk of decay and demolition, as well as some that have been saved, refurbished or converted for new use.