Council faulted on dwelling severance conjecture

Full costs have been awarded against a south-east London borough that relied on "conjecture" in taking enforcement action against a side extension to a dwelling.

The appeal property was a two-storey detached house on a corner plot. A two-storey side extension had been partly erected with a separate rear entrance and a separate internal staircase. The council was concerned that the extension could easily be severed from the main house to form a separate dwelling, contrary to a specific adopted policy aiming to protect the area’s character and appearance.

However, it accepted that severance had not yet taken place, so no material change of use had occurred, and that if it happened in the future, that would amount to a breach of planning control. It also acknowledged that the extension would have no adverse impact on the surrounding area, given an existing permission granted in 2015 for a very similar development.

The inspector held that the council’s concerns were based on future scenarios that might not occur and its reasons for refusing permission and serving an enforcement notice were based on conjecture. In her view, the proposal was acceptable in terms of its impact on the area’s appearance and character and there was no other reason for withholding permission. She held that a full costs award was justified by the council’s unreasonable behaviour, resulting in unnecessary expense for the appellant.

Inspector: Debbie Moore; Written representations

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