Breathtaking views of Hampton Court Palace “will be ruined” after a legal bid to halt a controversial hotel development opposite the historic gem failed.
Critics of the plans branded Mr Justice Ouseley’s ruling at the High Court – which follows 25 years of uncertainty surrounding the Jolly Boatman site – a “tragedy”.
Historian David Starkey has described developer Gladedale’s plans for a four-storey 46-bedroom hotel, 66 new houses and a care home next to the Grade I listed historic landmark as not only “a national scandal but an international scandal”.
Keith Garner, an architect who led the legal fight, said most of the palace’s 600,000 tourists visited by train and when they arrived all they would see was “the back of a hotel”.
Mr Garner said: “It will cause immense harm to the setting of Hampton Court Palace.”
John Barnes, director of conservation and learning at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that looks after Hampton Court Palace, said: “We believe its size, scale and density, if implemented, will have a detrimental and irreversible effect on the historic setting of Hampton Court Palace.”
Mr Justice Ouseley ruled on Monday that Elmbridge Council acted lawfully when it granted Gladedale and Network Rail planning permission in December 2008, to build on a derelict site surrounding Hampton Court station.
Gladedale declined to comment on when it would start construction, but said the judge’s decision would “enable us to move forward with a high-quality development in a unique location which is supported by many local people”.
Mr Justice Ouseley said “it would beggar belief” if the council had not paid “special regard” for the palace and the nearby Grade II listed bridge when making its decision.
He said: “I am left in no doubt that the desirability of preserving the setting of the palace and the bridge was one of the key issues, if not the key issue or consideration, in the decision – to which special regard was paid.”
Members of the Hampton Court Rescue Campaign group said they were “extremely disappointed” by the judge’s decision.
Richmond and Twickenham Times readers also registered their displeasure at the decision.
Writing on our website, Resigned of Thames Ditton said: “How can any civilised human being say a multi-storey building on the lip of the Thames a hare’s breath from Hampton Court Palace has been carefully considered?
“Go to another country and see how they preserve their heritage, not block its view.
“We are the only country in the world that desecrates its own backyard for money.
“I despair for the children of the future of this once proud nation.
“We leave them with nothing but debts and debris.”
But Councillor John O’Reilly, leader of Elmbridge Council, said: “We are pleased the decision of democratically-elected councillors on this complex but important planning application has been tested and found to be robust.”