Council facing legal challenge on plans for Conan Doyle house

A HIGH Court challenge is to be launched against plans to redevelop the former home of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The Scots-born author wrote some of his most famous works at Undershaw in Hindhead, Surrey, including The Hound of the Baskervilles.

But the Grade II-listed property is at the centre of its own drama involving the local council, a developer and campaigners keen to see it preserved.

Undershaw is believed to be rare among writers' houses as Conan Doyle is understood to have had direct input into its design.

He entertained other literary greats at the property, such as Peter Pan author JM Barrie and Dracula creator Bram Stoker.

Conan Doyle had Undershaw built in 1897 for 4,800 when his wife, Louise, was diagnosed with tuberculosis, hoping that the local climate would aid her recovery.

He lived there until her death and moved in 1907 to a new property with his second wife before dying in Crowborough, East Sussex, aged 71 in 1930.

Conan Doyle's other homes have all either been destroyed or converted and the original features lost.

Undershaw, which featured the writer's monograms etched into windows, his heraldic crests and fingerprinted door plates, fell into disrepair after some years as a hotel.

But in June this year, Waverley Borough Council granted planning permission and listed building consent on the neglected building.

The plans include turning the main house into eight homes and using the current stable building as a property and garages.

But campaigners are opposed to any plan that restricts the public's access to the house and that risks destroying the interior.

Descendants of Conan Doyle have expressed their disappointment at the council's decision, with his great-nephew, Richard Doyle, saying it was "such a shame".

John Gibson, an expert on Conan Doyle and director of the Undershaw Preservation Trust, has now instructed law firm Irwin Mitchell to start judicial review proceedings in an attempt to overturn the decision to award planning permission to developer Fossway Ltd, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The High Court in London will be asked to quash the council's plans on the grounds that the decision to grant listed building consent and planning permission was unlawful.