Hotel may be forced to remove ‘jarring’ fountain which ‘detracts from distinctive York view’

The disputed fountain in the grounds of Grays Court Hotel. Photographs: Richard McDougall
4 Feb 2018 @ 6.17 pm
| Environment, History

One of York’s most beautiful hotels could be forced to remove a fountain it installed in its grounds.

Grays Court Hotel is a Grade I listed building found next to Treasurer’s House in the York Minster Cathedral Precinct.

Last year owner Helen Heraty installed a 3.5m (11.5ft) wide fountain in the centre of the lawn at the rear of the hotel which backs on to the city walls.

But no planning permission was sought for the installation.

And a retrospective application for planning permission has been turned down, meaning the ornamental fountain may have to go.

‘Completely alien’

A wonderful vista, with Grays Court and its ground in the foreground, so close to York Minster

A report to York planners said Historic England objected to the fountain. It recommended the application were refused.

It said: “When seen from the city walls, the fountain is a jarring and inappropriate addition that reads as completely alien in this group of buildings, not least because of its colour and size.”

The report went on:

The stretch of the city walls from Monk Bar to Bootham Bar is particularly distinctive with elevated views to the Minster across the gardens of the Minster Close, Dean’s Park and the Deanery Garden…

It is considered that the fountain draws the eye and detracts from the restrained architectural character and composition of the historic buildings in the middle ground in views from the city walls.

Therefore, it is considered that the location, design, materials and scale of the fountain harms the setting of the host listed building and those adjacent as an alien form in an otherwise open lawn.

‘Complement historic surroundings’

The fountain was installed last year

The hotel’s supporting statement said: “The location, scale and materials of the fountain have been carefully considered in order to respect and complement its historic surroundings…

“The development is located away from the city walls in a central position on the grassed area, the historic design of the development respects its surroundings and the applicant has avoided any harm by placing the development on the surface.”

But those arguments failed to move York council.

Last Thursday (February 1) planners refused retrospective planning permission for the fountain on the grounds that it “harms the setting” and there are “no compelling public benefits identified that would outweigh this harm”.

Now the Grays Court Hotel either has to appeal the decision, or abide by the ruling and take out the fountain.

‘Considering my options’

The beautiful Grade I listed Grays Court

Grays Court owner Helen Heraty told YorkMix that she thought installing the fountain was allowed under development rules and would add to the aesthetics of the house.

Helen said:

I would never knowingly have contravened any planning regulation and am somewhat embarrassed to find myself in this position.

I was so focused on preparing the garden for my daughter’s wedding in August 2017 that I clearly did not ask the correct questions and lost sight of ensuring that correct permissions were sought.

I wholeheartedly believed that the addition of the fountain would only add to the aesthetics of the house and surrounding areas and was covered under permitted development rules.

I am still considering my options on whether to appeal the decision in order that City of York Council reverse the decision.