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Rural planning in action

Tissington Seminar & Tour, 13 April 2023

John Scott is the recently retired Director of Conservation and Planning at the Peak District National Park Authority, with over 30 years’ experience in both the public and private sector. John has been involved with the RTPI for many years and has also previously served as RTPI East Midlands Chair. 


“I inherited a village – with many listed buildings, in a Conservation Area, in a National Park, in one of the most restrictive Planning systems in the world."

These are the words of Sir Richard Fitzherbert, the current guardian of the village of Tissington and Tissington Hall, in the Peak District National Park. Not a standard day in the office then… 

The history of Tissington can be traced back to 1086. Tissington Hall was built in 1609. It was garrisoned for the King by its owner, Colonel FitzHerbert in December 1643 and since 1989 the Hall and surrounding village has been managed by Sir Richard FitzHerbert.

Sir Richard’s family have been living in and looking after Tissington for hundreds of years and he is aware that he now has the responsibility to passing it on in a healthy condition. The challenges of doing this, whilst working with the farmers, businesses and people who rent his properties, living and working on the estate, would be worth listening to in themselves, but the latest EMRTPI rural planning event gave Planners from the region an insight into how this fits into their world of planning policy and practice. There can’t be many finer or more historic venues for one of our events than Tissington Hall, where even the trip to use the facilities gave us a look behind the scenes in one of Derbyshire’s oldest houses!

Sir Richard is not just the latest member of the family to look after Tissington – he is also the Chair of the Planning Committee at Derbyshire Dales District Council and the Chair of  Marketing Peak District & Derbyshire, the local tourist board. With this wealth of experience he gave us an insight into what he sees as the biggest challenges facing an historic estate that needs to look to the future. 

His opening presentation was followed by Brian Taylor, the Head of Planning at the Peak District National Park Authority, the local planning authority for the area.  Brian and his predecessors have all developed a close working relationship with Sir Richard – they may not always agree, but the National Park Planners have a better understanding of the issues facing the estate.  Brian explained that the National Park  and the estate have similar objectives – managing a highly valued historic landscape and its buildings, whilst looking to the future.  One example of this is how we provide affordable housing in this highly protected landscape.  Organic growth, with single houses to meet specific needs, and the sympathetic conversion of barns has seen the character of the village and the estate protected whilst not remaining totally unchanged. 

Tissington Hall

John Scott, the former Chief Planner at the National Park followed Sir Richard and Brian, setting out the many roles we are expecting land managers and farmers to fill and wondering just how they will manage this – guardians of our landscape, our heritage assets, providers of our food, deliverers of biodiversity net gain, bastions against  the threats of climate change – can we really expect them to do all of these things?  The tensions are even greater in those areas where agricultural land is being used to provide housing sites – thankfully this is not a big issue in the National Park, but it is in those parts of Derbyshire just outside it. Walking around the village in the morning and then visiting Bents Farm, a modern dairy farm on the estate, in the afternoon gave us a chance to appreciate the sensitive and passionate way in which Sir Richard is going about the job.

Sir Richard Fitzherbert led a walking tour around the village and estate

One participant, Andrew Grayson Course Leader at Nottingham Trent University MSc Property Development & Planning described the event as, “a fantastic insight into rural planning and estate management issues in Derbyshire. It was well-attended, creating an excellent opportunity to network, and the hospitality was wonderful. To listen to Sir Richard FitzHerbert talk first-hand about the Tissington Estate in the context of what it’s like to have responsibility for a village and community and how that relates to the planning system was very interesting”.

Sir Richard added: "It was a pleasure to entertain so many young planners at Tissington recently. I have looked after the Estate for 34 years and am always keen to show the myriad of issues that confront us every day. The group was made up from both the private and public sector and I was delighted to show the issues on a traditional rural Estate that needs to evolve in order to survive. I showed issues such as caravan sites, re-use of redundant buildings and farming development that is needed through ever-changing environmental legislation. I found it a fascinating and rewarding day and I trust I was successful in explaining the challenges we face living in a listed building in a conservation village in a National Park."

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