Records of the Beverley Minster Open Space Campaign

Scope and Content

The collection comprises papers produced and accumulated in the course of the campaign which were subsequently copied or acquired by Richard Wilson. Therefore, much of the material is in photocopy or carbon-copy form. The collection had no original order and has been artificially arranged to group together records created by the same individual or organisation.

Administrative / Biographical History

The campaign to preserve the open space to the south of Beverley Minster began in the late 1970s. It followed the circulation by the Chief Planning Officer of Beverley Borough Council, Deryck Solman, of a draft development brief for the St Andrew Street/Lurk Lane area of the town in March 1976. Although the document recognised the value of the site, which was partly within the Beverley Conservation Area, the consultation process which began in April highlighted a number of contentious issues. Consultees ranging from the Minster Residents' Association and Beverley and District Civic Society, to the Director of Planning of Humberside County Council, objected principally to Mr Solman's assumption of the need for extensive demolition of properties in the area and the expansion of housing development to the west of Lurk Lane, encroaching onto a stretch of land designated as Public Open Space by the Beverley and District Development Map. Originally the location of the Minster Boys' School, this site was purchased from the York Diocesan Board of Finance Limited by the Borough Council in September 1975 for the sum of £4000, on the understanding that it would be utilised for open space purposes. In response to the brief, a report by students of Hull School of Architecture was produced for the Civic Society which favoured the creation of a Housing Action Area in St Andrew Street/Lurk Lane, combining both rehabilitation and selective demolition and rebuilding of existing housing [U DBE/1/5-6 13, 18; U DBE/2/7].

As long ago as 1961 however, the Borough Council had resolved that housing conditions in St Andrew Street/Lurk Lane were such that this course of action would be 'undesirable and uneconomic' and that the choice was therefore between demolition and clearance or redevelopment of the area. The establishment of the St Andrew Street Development Co-operative Limited (SASDC) in 1977 indicated that residents preferred the latter option and the Design Unit at York University was commissioned by the Co-operative in July of that year to undertake a feasibility study. It was from this study by David Crease that the controversial development scheme emerged which involved the expansion of housing west of Lurk Lane, necessitating the purchase of the Minster school site from the Council. SASDC paid £40,500 for the property in October 1979 and in August of the following year submitted an outline planning application for Phase I of the project, incorporating residential development of the site by Stepney Developments Limited. After consultation, outline planning permission was granted by the Council on 23 October 1980, in spite of opposition by such councillors as David Barley and William Hamilton, and the emergence of a compromise solution on 20 October suggested by Sir Hugh Wilson and William Whitfield of the Royal Fine Art Commission [U DBE/1/6, 8, 19; U DBE/14/1].

It was at this point that objectors to the development plans began to co-ordinate their opposition, resulting in the formation of a new campaign group, the Beverley Heritage Alliance. Three Beverley residents in particular played a vital role within the Alliance, namely Richard Wilson, an Open University Staff Tutor, John Wilton-Ely, Professor of the History of Art at Hull University, and the architectural historian, Dr Ivan Hall. Links were also developed with longstanding supporters of the Environs of Beverley Minster Appeal, such as George W. Odey, former member of parliament and Councillor for Beverley, Sir Brynmor Jones, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hull and the Treasurer of the Appeal Committee, T.B. Liddle. Protests to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Heseltine MP, and national publicity in the letter columns of The Times failed to dissuade the Council from its view that it had made the right planning decision. The Department of the Environment expressed its reluctance to interfere with the planning decision of a democratically-elected local council, a position also adopted by the then MP for Beverley, Sir Patrick Wall.

A formal complaint was subsequently made by a number of Beverley residents, (co-ordinated by another active member of Beverley Heritage Alliance, Mary Mumby), to the Commissioner for Local Administration in England, the Ombudsman, on the grounds that both the consultation process and the final planning decision had been inadequate. The report of the Ombudsman's investigation, published on 5 September 1981, concluded that the Council's dual role as planning authority and landowner had influenced its decision to approve the application and that maladministration and injustice had occurred. As the Co-operative was not prepared to amend its proposals and the Council considered it unreasonable to revoke the planning permission, no adequate measures were taken for redress and the Ombudsman was compelled to issue a second report on 2 December 1981. By late 1981, the controversy had reached such a point that sympathetic peers, namely Lord Kennet and Lord Simon of Glaisdale, highlighted the threat to Beverley Minster in the House of Lords in an attempt to persuade the Department of the Environment to intervene [U DBE/4/5; U DBE12/49].

The Council proceeded to grant outline planning permission and listed building consent for the demolition of specified properties in St Andrew Street for Phase II of the project on 23 December 1981, thus persuading Richard Wilson, John Wilton-Ely and Ivan Hall to take their case to the High Court. An ex parte injunction was subsequently granted on 18 February 1982, preventing the Council from granting detailed planning permission pending the outcome of a judicial review. At the same time, Richard Wilson engaged in a continuing campaign to persuade the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, Sir Cecil Clothier, to investigate the matter, whilst John Wilton-Ely appeared on Newsnight, broadcast on BBC2 in early February [U DBE/12/68-72; U DBE/17/22].

Despite the exhaustive campaigning, in his judgement issued in the High Court on 8 September 1982, Mr Justice Glidewell ruled that the applicants' challenge to the validity of the planning decision had failed and costs were awarded in favour of the Council. A final unsuccessful attempt to prevent the development scheme was made on 26 October 1982 at a public inquiry into the compulsory purchase order served on 58 St Andrew Street, the only property in the street which remained in private ownership. The objectors were left to mount a high-profile fundraising campaign over the next few years in order to meet their legal bills, whilst building work began on the disputed site. In the view of Richard Wilson, the 'curious feeling of completeness' of Beverley Minster and its environs, remarked upon by Nikolaus Pevsner had been lost [U DBE/15/13; U DBE/16/1].


U DBE/1 Beverley Borough Council, 1975-1982

U DBE/2 Beverley & District Civic Society, 1976-1983

U DBE/3 Beverley Heritage Alliance, 1981-1985

U DBE/4 Commissioner for Local Administration in England (the Ombudsman), 1981

U DBE/5 William Hamilton, 1980-1982

U DBE/6 Minster Residents' Association, 1975-1980

U DBE/7 Mary Mumby, 1980-1982

U DBE/8 George W Odey, 1978-1981

U DBE/9 Michael Peck, East Riding Alliance, 1981-1982

U DBE/10 St Andrew Street Development Co - operative Limited, 1978 - 1979

U DBE/11 SAVE Britain's Heritage, 1981-1982

U DBE/12 Richard Wilson, 1969 - 1984

U DBE/13 John Wilton - Ely, 1980 - 1987

U DBE/14 York University Design Unit, 1977

U DBE/15 High Court of Justice, Queen's bench Division, 1982

U DBE/16 Public Inquiry, 1982

U DBE/17 Miscellaneous, 1964-1984

Access Information

Some of the records in this collection contain sensitive personal information. In accordance with data protection legislation, records containing sensitive personal information are not available for public inspection for 75 years if the information relates to adults, or 100 years if the information relates to children. In some circumstances access may be granted for research purposes. To request access or for further information please contact

Access to all other material will be granted to any accredited reader.

Other Finding Aids

Entry in Pressure group archives subject guide

Custodial History

Presented by Richard Wilson in 1991

Related Material

Records of the East Yorkshire campaign [U DEY - uncatalogued]


Richard Wilson, 'The Beverley Minster Open Space Campaign', 'Paragon Review', 3 (1994)