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Holmes house supporters win battle
A High Court challenge to a plan to redevelop the Victorian house where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Hound Of The Baskervilles has succeeded.
Author John Gibson, founder of the Undershaw Preservation Trust, attacked Waverley Borough Council's September 2010 decision to allow owner Fossway Ltd to divide Grade II-listed Undershaw into eight separate homes.
The building, at Hindhead Crossroads near Haslemere, Surrey, was used as a hotel since the 1920s and left empty in 2005, falling into disrepair.
Mr Justice Cranston said that, because of legal flaws, the council's decisions to grant planning permission and listed building consent must be quashed.
There was strong public support for preserving Undershaw, which the author designed and where he lived from 1897 to 1907, completing 13 Sherlock Holmes stories in that time.
The 1,360 objections to the proposal included those from the Victorian Society, local MP and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, ex-chairman of the Arts Council Sir Christopher Frayling, Julian Barnes - who set his Booker Prize-nominated novel Arthur And George in Undershaw - writer Ian Rankin and broadcaster Stephen Fry.
The council, which is to pay Mr Gibson's agreed costs of £20,000, was given time to consider whether to appeal.
Mr Gibson, who also gained support from Mark Gatiss, co-creator of the BBC's Sherlock, said after the ruling: "This has been a long and difficult battle to save Undershaw and we are absolutely thrilled with the decision to quash planning permission to redevelop the property. This is a place which is steeped in history and should be treated with reverence.
"Conan Doyle's life and works are a fundamental part of British culture and arguably their stock has never been higher. We have been absolutely delighted to see enthusiasts from across the world get in touch and pledge their support to our efforts.
"We are very hopeful that this decision will signal a sea-change in attitude towards this historic property and that it will lead to it being rightly preserved as a single building - hopefully as a museum or centre where future generations can be inspired by the many stories which have been created within its walls."