December 23, 2015
The judicial planning review process has now been completed and has hopefully brought this long running saga re our planning approval to an end. The case brought by John Gibson has been finally rejected by the court and Waverley District Council will hopefully pursue an application for a contribution to its costs. This early Christmas present from the court will now allow us to get on and complete our repair and development of Undershaw for the benefit of the children and families at Stepping Stones School, the wider Haslemere community and Conan Doyle’s enthusiasts the world over.
Undershaw will finally open in June after a very long and meticulous planning process. We have continued to work on site whilst the case was waiting to be heard as we were fully confident that we had the support of our community and the legal right to do so. As the main interested party affected by his legal action we submitted strong evidence to refute John Gibson’s case alongside Waverley Borough Council. This unnecessary legal process has resulted in a significant cost to Waverley Council Tax payers and our small charity which we are unable to recoup. Vital charitable funding which could have provided equipment for the children has been diverted as we were forced to defend our perfectly legal planning permission.
The court found that Waverley Borough Council had been highly professional in its approach to our planning application throughout this entire process. It has closely monitored the work on site throughout the development of the scheme. This decision by the court will allow us to provide the desperately needed accommodation for our small special school. We are deeply grateful to Waverley Council Officers and Cllrs for their resolute approach in this case. Undershaw would still be languishing and rotting away had they not agreed to the change of use and essential development on the site. Whilst some necessary features at Undershaw have had to be adapted to provide disabled access, the vast majority of this building has been saved and is being thoroughly restored so that it can be easily understood as the home of Conan Doyle. Our landscaping plans will shortly be submitted for planning approval which will ensure that the wonderful views to the Surrey Hills that captivated Conan Doyle and his family can once more be enjoyed by everyone visiting Undershaw.
Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts the world over can be reassured that Undershaw will now be finally saved and not allowed to deteriorate. We very much hope that we will be able to welcome visitors to visit Undershaw and participate in a developing range of events.
We feel that Conan Doyle would be pleased to know that his home is to be preserved and given such a valuable role as a permanent living testament to his care for his disabled wife and the many disabled children who will enjoy and use these remarkable buildings for many years to come.