Millionaire design guru wins fight to block neighbour's new house
Fortnum & Mason millionaire design guru wins court fight to block neighbour’s new house he said was ‘too suburban’ to be next to his £3m country mansion
- Glenn Kinnersley, 60, successfully argued the conversion was ‘too surburban’
- Maidstone Borough Council previously gave planning permission for the barn
- The council will now have to reconsider the application from Mr and Mrs Dixon
A millionaire design guru who has worked for Fortnum & Mason has won a court fight to block his neighbours’ new house from being built after complaining it looks ‘too suburban’ to be next to his £3m country mansion.
Interior designer Glenn Kinnersley, 60, and his wife Donna fell out with photographer neighbour Paul Dixon and his wife Angela over their plans to build a ‘suburban’ style barn conversion they say will spoil the stately image of their Georgian country pile in the Kent Downs.
Mr and Mrs Dixon live in Mulberry Cottage, which adjoins Hollingbourne House and which they rescued from a derelict wreck when they moved in 24 years ago.
Mr and Mrs Kinnersley expressed their ‘disappointment with the suburban design, the extensive glazing and the non-traditional flat roof’ of their neighbours’ proposed build in a letter of protest penned through their lawyers to their local council.
Maidstone Borough Council went ahead and granted permission for the build, but Mr Kinnersley fought on, taking the case first to the High Court and then Court of Appeal.
Mr Kinnersley and wife Donna bought Grade-II listed Hollingbourne House (pictured), which dominates a crest on the Kent north downs for £1.6m back in 2005
Glenn Kinnersley (pictured), 60, claims photographer neighbour Paul Dixon’s ‘suburban’ style barn conversion will spoil the stately image of his £3million Georgian country pile in Kent
This week, he won a Court of Appeal ruling, overturning the council’s January 2021 decision, after claiming the local authority ignored the impact their neighbours’ new house would have on the prized ‘heritage asset’ of their posh home.
An internationally renowned interiors guru, Mr Kinnersley has done design work for Fortnum and Mason, and set up global creative design brand Kinnersley Kent, a flourishing business based in London and Dubai.
He and his wife bought 18th century Hollingbourne House for £1.6 million in 2005, transforming it into a sprawling family home, dominating a crest of the Kentish North Downs.
The Georgian mansion, which came with eight acres of grounds and ‘vast cellars,’ was originally the seat of a family of prominent Kent landowners – the Duppas – and was designed by the architect Charles Beazley as a ‘grand neo-classical residence’.
But the couple’s contentment in their stately dream home was shattered when they learned their neighbours, Mr and Mrs Dixon, were trying to convert a barn on their land into two new houses.
Complaining to the council during the planning process, Mr and Mrs Kinnersley said they had a ‘fundamental concern about the design of the scheme’ – which involves demolishing part of the barn to erect a ‘replacement structure’ and converting the barn’s front section to create two homes, plus parking and garden space.
The Dixons also want to demolish a garden wall which their neighbours say is historic, while rebuilding an alternative wall and restoring an old glasshouse.
At present, Mr Dixon uses the barn building – known as the Courtyard Studios – to house his commercial photography business.
‘These features are out of keeping with the prevailing character of the site and will detract from the agricultural character of the building and from the overall aesthetic of the estate,’ the letter of objection added.
The couple also questioned the proposed ‘dominating windows’ which they said would be ‘highly visible from the listed walled garden owned and used by Mr and Mrs Kinnersley’.
The 18th-century country mansion Hollingbourne House, in Hollingbourne, near Maidstone, Kent, as it was long before it was purchased by design guru millionaire design guru who worked for Fortnum & Mason
Plans for Mr Dixon’s barn conversion, criticised as ‘too suburban’ next to grade-II listed Hollingbourne House in Kent
Paul (pictured) and Angela Dixon have won a court battle to build two new dwellings by converting and revamping outbuildings which used to be within the house’s estate
Such jarring features would ‘draw the eye and significantly alter the experience of the historical surroundings of Hollingbourne House’ and would be ‘domineering and overbearing,’ they said.
But the Dixons insist they did their utmost to design a project in tune with both the environment and the historical profile of Hollingbourne House.
Mr Kinnersley went to court in July 2021 after Maidstone Council granted planning permission and Judge Walden-Smith threw out his case, rejecting his lawyers’ arguments that the council’s planning officer wrongly assessed the impact of the development on historic Hollingbourne House.
But he continued the fight and this week won after challenging Judge Walden-Smith’s decision at the Court of Appeal in London.
Lord Justice Lewis came down in favour Mr Kinnersley, quashing the grant of planning permission and directing that the council reconsider their decision to allow the build.
He said the core issue came down to whether the build could be allowed to go ahead if the whole of the site genuinely has a high ‘environmental value’.
He ruled that the council failed to properly consider this question, concluding: ‘Maidstone Borough Council failed properly to interpret the planning policy in that it failed to consider whether the application site as a whole had environmental value.
The Dixons live in Mulberry Cottage (pictured), which adjoins Hollingbourne House and which they rescued from a derelict wreck when they moved in 24 years ago
Mr Dixon currently uses his barn (pictured) to house his commercial photography business
‘Rather, it only considered whether part of the application site, that is, the existing studio building, had a high environmental value.
‘For that reason, I would quash the planning permission and the listed building consent and remit the matter to the respondent.
‘It will have to decide whether or not the application site, comprising the studio building, the walled garden and the land connecting with the road, has high environmental value and whether the other criteria… are satisfied.’
Paul Dixon said he and his wife had intended to convert the Courtyard Studios into residences and sell them on to provide for their pension pot, having lavished time and cash restoring the buildings they own next to Hollingbourne House over the past 20 years.
The case will now go back before the council to be looked at again in light of the Court of Appeal’s ruling.
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