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The Steinberg Principle

- For a long time a great deal of essentially mediocre development took place in conservation areas, on the basis that it did no real harm (Unfortunately, it still happens). A case in 1989, Steinberg vs Secretary of State for the Environment, now generally referred to as the "Steinberg Principle" forced many local authorities to re-think their attitude to development proposals in their conservation areas. Two members of a neighbourhood action committee (one of whom was named Steinberg) challenged in the high court, a reporter's decision to overturn a refusal of permission by a local authority to develop a block of flats on a piece of derelict ground in a conservation area. The High Court set aside the decision on the basis that the reporter had failed to properly determine whether or not the proposal would make a positive contribution to preserving and enhancing the character of the area. The reporter's contention that the character would not be harmed was seen by the court as an insufficient discharge of his duties. Later cases in the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Lords, have been interpreted differently, but the importance of Steinberg in highlighting the fact that the underlying principle behind conservation area designation is essentially positive, remains.