The advice of Stoke’s Planning Authority, along with the recommendation of English Heritage and the express wishes of the Bishop of Lichfield, was insufficient to persuade Stoke’s Planning Committee to allow the bells of St John’s Hanley to be removed from the tower and transferred to Stone.  The new Planning Application was refused by five votes to four, despite the assertion from the applicant (me on behalf of the owners), from supporting recommendations, and from the Conservation Officers that if the bells stay in the tower they may never ring again.

The previous application in January was turned down by the Planning Authority without being referred to the full Committee.  Basically the Conservation Officers didn’t approve of it.  So we spent six months preparing a fresh application and working with the Conservation Officers to get their support, and also the support of English Heritage.  (All note – EH supported an application to remove a ring of bells and frame from a Grade II* listed building.  It can be done.)  The application went to the full Planning Committee last week, and this time it was the Planning Committee that refused it!

On the face of it this was an astonishing decision.  The Chairman repeatedly told the Committee that they were straying off course and were considering irrelevant arguments.  Even the Council’s lawyer chipped in and warned them that they risked acting illegally.  But they were overwhelmed by local sentiment and voted for the bells to stay.  Someone sitting next to me waiting for another matter muttered sotto voce “par for the course - usual shambles.” 

Simon Linford

Read the full article in Ringing World issue 5180 (6 August 2010)

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