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Nine pictures from Noseley Hall near Market Harborough in Leicestershire, which were sold by Sotheby’s last September, have remained in storage since following an enforcement notice from the local council and an appeal by the Hall’s owner, the Hon Arthur Hazlerigg.

The significance of the inspector’s decision may lie in the manner in which he reached his conclusions.

To qualify as fixtures – and thereby be barred from sale under the property’s listed status – the pictures had to fulfil two criteria, known as degrees of annexation.

The first degree concerned how they were fixed to the walls. In this case they were screwed to their fittings and thus deemed to have a strong enough degree of annexation to the building to count as fixtures.

However, under the second criterion, the purpose of their introduction, two of the nine pictures failed the test. The government inspector agreed with art expert Timothy Sammons, who argued that the two paintings depicting the racehorse Ring Tail did not enhance the beauty of the room in which they hung, did not have any real relevance to it and made no contribution to the architectural beauty of the room.

He concluded: “I consider that the Ring Tails were not installed for the purpose ‘of creating a beautiful room as a whole’. They were primitive life size paintings inserted into a handsomely proportioned Palladian entrance hall. In my view, the weak architectural link in the purpose of the annexation fails to meet the second test. The Ring Tails did not form a symbiotic relationship with the interior of the stone hall and so become an intrinsic part of the building in the early 18th century. My opinion is that the two paintings are not to be regarded as fixtures.”

The inspector deemed that the seven Pannini paintings were introduced to enhance the beauty of their surroundings, however, and as such could be deemed fixtures, a view at odds with Mr Sammons who handled the sale of the paintings at Sotheby’s last year.

The case was brought by Harborough District Council after Mr Hazlerigg disposed of the pictures as part of a sale to raise money to finance the upkeep of Noseley Hall.

The council argued that he had breached planning guidlines in removing the pictures from a listed building. Mr Hazlerigg’s application for costs aginst the council was refused.

Listed buildings consultant Anthony Blee, who did not believe the removal of the pictures had a detrimental effect on the building, told the appeal hearing that it would be “disastrous” for all owners of listed buildings if the pictures were deemed fixtures.