They may be romantic, and often the epitome of style, but most owners of listed buildings would concede that draughts and creaky windows can be a considerable problem in the winter.
Now help could be at hand as a Hampshire parish councillor is mounting a test case at the High Court to ease restrictions on fitting double glazing.
Timothy Guinness said planning authorities showed “prejudice” about double glazing in listed properties because designs had moved on since the windows were restricted to “frightful PVC”. The owner of Widmoor Farm, in Ellisfield, he applied to change the windows at the 16th- century property but was rejected by planning authorities. He is now fighting his case at the High Court in the interests of hundreds of listed building owners in the same predicament.
He told Neil Cameron, QC, the judge: “I felt that by standing up and being counted, at some financial risk, I was doing my fellow countrymen a service, if it turned out that the courts could and would correct an error of law in the inspector’s decision.”
The judge has reserved judgment in the complex case. Mr Guiness’s battle began in September last year with an application to replace the steel-framed windows with a timber-framed double-glazed variety, with a local joinery company listed for the work.
He said that he had been brought up at the Grade II property, listed in 1984, and that the windows he seeks to install at his home are timber-framed and will enhance its appearance as well as make it more energy-efficient.
Mr Guinness’s application was refused by planning authorities at Basingstoke and Deane borough council in June on the ground that the replacement windows would “harm the historic character” of the timber-framed family farmhouse because they were too “bulky”.
Planners said that the Crittall windows were not historic, or of architectural interest in their own right, and that they did not contribute to the historic significance of the listed building.
They added that the replacement windows of Mr Guinness would fail to “preserve the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building”.
So Mr Guinness, 67, and his wife, Beverly, appealed against the decision, but lawyers representing the Department for Communities and Local Government argued that the inspector had been entitled to reach the decision she did.
Guidance from English Heritage on draught-proofing windows and doors for listed buildings says that proofing is one of the “most cost-effective and least intrusive ways of improving the comfort of occupants and reducing energy used for heating”.
It adds that windows and doors make a big contribution to a building’s historic nature and every effort must be made to maintain it.
This is not the first time that planning decisions on listed buildings have reached the High Court. A battle has been fought over plans to re- develop the former home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, over a Grade II-listed property, at Undershaw in Hindhead, Surrey.
A judgment on Mr Guiness’s case is expected before Christmas.