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This is going to be long, major planning woes!

(21 Posts)
HeadFairy Wed 02-Dec-15 11:35:55

Ok, I'll start with a history lesson. We applied for planning permission to raise the roof of our house by 1.2m to bring it in line with the houses either side and to allow living accommodation in the loft. One neighbour major exception to this and objected strenuously (65 pages of objections, including several with absolutely no relevance to the local planning framework) he also encouraged a couple of other neighbours to object too (with completely bogus objections which were overruled, i.e. we were planning on turning our house in to an HMO and one neighbour three doors down who said we would over look her garden).

The application was rejected, which we knew was a risk. We found out a couple of weeks later that the council passed an application to do an extremely similar design on a house about a mile away - i know it was similar because it was submitted by our architect! If anything this other application was even more risky because they were taking the ridgeline slightly above the surrounding houses.

Because the council passed this application and not ours, we decided to appeal the decision, using this other property as part of the basis of our appeal. The planning inspector did a site visit but didn't visit this other street to see this other property, and then rejected our appeal.

Our architect has since heard that the neighbour who originally objected put a lot of pressure on local councillors to intervene and that our original application was turned down because of pressure the local councillors put on the planning department to prevent the permission being granted.

I'm not sure what all this means... I don't know if there's anyone on here with any kind of experience of this sort of thing and has any advice to offer. We've been looking to move for the last 2 years and there is absolutely nothing we can afford that is close enough to the children's school and big enough for us so getting planning permission is kind of our best hope at the moment.

JT05 Wed 02-Dec-15 12:40:53

Your Architect should know how to take it to the next level of appeal, beyond the Local Council, to Government level. If you have not already done so.

SeasonalVag Wed 02-Dec-15 12:48:19

How could he pressure them? Who is he? This seems so petty, I don't understand their issue

lalalonglegs Wed 02-Dec-15 13:12:21

Maybe you should wait a few months - I seem to remember that the government said that they would be introducing a new planning guideline to allow buildings to be brought up to the height of their neighbours. Presumably it mostly affects new-builds but it could well be applied to your situation as well.

gingeroots Wed 02-Dec-15 13:43:50

Planning permission can only be refused if the plans fail some planning requirement .

What was the actual wording when your application was rejected ? Normally it will say not in keeping with ...or against Building Homes For The Future sec8 ,para 2 or some such .

You say you knew it was a risk that it would be rejected - what did you think might make it fail ?

gingeroots Wed 02-Dec-15 13:49:51

I'd resubmit plans revised to take account of whatever the reason for rejection was .

Then ask for advice from planning officers to see if new plans are ok .Our council charges for advice but you can withdraw application and reapply at no extra cost .

Persistence usally pays off ,I've seen many applications be succesful after a first rejected one .

HeadFairy Wed 02-Dec-15 14:30:11

The plan was originally rejected because of the adverse effect on the street scene, the council said that the change would upset the uniformity of the street, however no two houses on the street are the same. The planning application that was granted weeks after ours was in a street with a much higher degree of uniformity, so we're totally baffled.

Gingeroots, there isn't really another way of us doing the design without raising the roof, which is what the council said would upset the street scene. We are going back to have another pre-app meeting because the last time we had one they said they didn't think there would be a problem with the plans, which is why we think the unending stream of pressure from this neighbour influenced their thinking.

lalalonglegs, I saw that too, sadly it's only in London, and we're just outside.

seasonalvag - he is the original neighbour from hell. He does nothing all day but write complaining letters to the council, he proudly tells anyone who will listen that he complains about absolutely everything. I have been told he's been blacklisted by local tradespeople because when ever they do any work on his house he complains it's not been done correctly and refuses to pay. Every time!

namechangedtoday15 Wed 02-Dec-15 15:52:47

Can you raise the roof by a smaller amount and lower the ceilings slightly in the upstairs rooms?

Meandyouandyouandme Wed 02-Dec-15 16:10:16

We have a neighbour like this, he wrote to all our neighbours tellling them to write horrible letters to us, and letters to the council, objecting to our extension.

It was awful, our original crime was to clear up rubbish and weeds from the private road where our house is. And some of the neighbours didn't like what we did. It was just a nightmare, we got two poison pen letters, and the lady at the council said they'd never had so many letters!

We still got planning although had to make some adjustments. If it's reasonable the council shouldn't be able to refuse it.

One of the poison pen letters came from someone who claimed he worked in the council law department and would do his utmost to stop all development. So we were very worried.

So my advice would be to speak to the council, and see what they would allow and see if you can make it work. We wanted to do alot more than they'd allow, so eventually came to a compromise.

Seeline Wed 02-Dec-15 16:30:00

Local Councillors are allowed to represent the views of their constituents - that is why they exist. However, planning decisions should only be made on legitimate planning grounds. The objections of neighbours would only have been considered by the planning inspector if they were valid planning reasons.
The house is a mile away from yours - it is unlikely to be considered as a precedent in planning terms as the circumstances will be entirely different.
Do you live in a Conservation Area or a specially designated area of some sort - if so stricter rules will apply.
Are the houses either side of you the same style as yours, if not then simply adjusting the height will not make them uniform. are there any other houses of the same design as yours in your street, and if so are they next door, or close by?
I have to say if the appeal has been dismissed, then in my experience, the refusal by the Council was valid. Why did the Inspector say the proposal was unacceptable?
Your only way forward is to meet with the Planning Officers and see if they would accept any increase in height, which would allow you to use the roof space.

HeadFairy Wed 02-Dec-15 16:52:38

Seeline, absolutely, i agree the councillors are there to represent the views of the locals. We are not in a conservation area, though the neighbour in question did apply to have a conservation area nearby extended to include our road to try and stop any planning being granted. That was refused thankfully. The houses either side are completely different to ours, the pitch of the roof is different, we have the gable end facing the road, theirs is at the side of the houses. There are no other houses in the street similar to ours.

We will meet with the council again, however we did that last time and they said it would be ok and to go ahead and submit the plans. Our neighbours intervention must have had some influence. I know planners are only allowed to use the planning framework as their guide, but the architect strongly feels that the council felt the strength of objection was such that they had to reject it. I have no idea if that's right or not, it's just what he told us.

namechange, we can't really lower the ceilings, the cost would be too prohibitive so there would be no point in doing it.

meandyou, thank you for your positive story, I'm glad you had a good result in the end. I'm hoping that in talking to the council again we can too.

namechangedtoday15 Wed 02-Dec-15 17:39:24

FWIW there was a thread on here not so long ago about lowering the ceilings and the cost was not as much as the poster had anticipated. Worth considering if you don't get anywhere with the council.

I appreciate that your architect seems to think the neighbour has had an impact - but he probably has a vested interest to lay the blame elsewhere. I don't suppose he wants to accept that he's advised you and drawn up plans (and charged you accordingly) that haven't been accepted. I think if you've already had your plans refused, then the appeal of the decision refused, then there are already a number of individuals with the same opinion who no doubt will have checked and re-checked the plans to ascertain whether the refusal of planning permission was correct.

I think if you're going to stand any chance of being able to go ahead with works, you're going to have to compromise somewhere. Surely the next step is to work out where you can compromise with it still being worthwhile to get the extra living space.

Alonglongway Wed 02-Dec-15 18:38:10

Did it go to planning committee or was it delegated to officers? You should be able to see a full set of documents that include the councillors representation - assuming there's no ward boundary between your houses, it's your councillor too and you might want to turn up at his/her surgery and politely ask for more info

gingeroots Thu 03-Dec-15 11:24:23

Wouldn't there have been notification to applicant if it were going to planning committee ? Always interesting to attend ,but strange old business as when referred councillors seem able to overrule planning officers .Which surely can't be right .

OP in our area ( Southwark ,London ) planning protects smaller houses because there is a need for them so rejects applications for division into flats ( bear with me ) but also ,because need identified for larger family houses ,likes ( from memory could be wrong ) creation of larger houses .

Can you investigate that angle - need for larger family homes and argue that you are creating a larger family home/maximising residential space in an area where this type of housing is at a premium ? IYSWIM .

How many bedrooms have you got ? How many would your plans provide ?

Seeline Thu 03-Dec-15 12:05:26

It will really depend on what the Planning Inspector said in the decision letter. The Council will take on board those comments when determining any future applications. The strength of local objection really wouldn't have influenced his decision unless they were on valid planning grounds.

gingeroots Thu 03-Dec-15 13:19:29

I do think strength of local objections can influence councillors and in turn they can influence decisions made at community council mtgs as opposed to those made by PO without referral .

newname99 Thu 03-Dec-15 18:09:23

Did you have to submit a proposed street scene? We did something similar and so have others on our road and our area is known as being challenging for planning. They have however allowed extra height if the design chamfers the roof edges so that they are away from neighbours. Can you post a plan of the increase from a street scene.

Does your council have a list of accredited planners? Would it be worth getting them to give some advice, essentially a 2nd opinion.

My friend had planning turned down despite it being a modest increase and no neighbours objected. What seems to have happened is that the architect got on the wrong side of the planning officer so they were looking to be unhelpful. Did the other house have a different planning officer assigned to the case?

Merrylegs Thu 03-Dec-15 18:21:46

Why not hire an independent planning consultant to look at your case?

Seeline Fri 04-Dec-15 08:39:06

Newname as a former planning officer, I can assure you that the choice of architect/agent will not have an impact on the decision of a planning officer. For a start, unless there is a valid planning case, the chances of the applicant appealing the decision will be higher, causing extra work for the officers. That will then run the risk of costs being awarded against the Council if it can be shown that there were no valid reasons. Furthermore, even if it is an Officer decision, rather than a Committee decision, it is not down to a single officer to make the decision - it will be looked at by team leaders, and managers.

HeadFairy Fri 04-Dec-15 12:36:18

sorry, forgot to come back and read all your comments.

Alonglongway, I didn't got to planning committee, it was a planning officer who made the decision.

Gingeroots, we did try that angle, i.e. we're making a house currently not very suitable for families as it only has a shower room in to a house that is much more suited. It didn't seem to make any difference.

namechangedtoday - I would normally agree with you that the architect may be looking to cast the blame anywhere but him, but an almost identical design by him on another property was granted PP, which presumably legitimises his design.

newname - I'm not sure if the other property had a different planning officer, but given it was the same architect I doubt the relationship with architect has with the planning officers would have much influence as it's not that big an office. I could be wrong, but I would hope they wouldn't allow personal feelings towards someone to influence their decisions. I'd be pretty hacked off if that was the case, and be seeking some kind of compensation. Of course that's pretty hard to prove.

seeline - as I understand it, only two people were involved in the decision at the LA planning dept stage, the case officer and then his superior. The case officer makes the decision but then runs it past his boss to get approval of his decision.

Merrylegs - we have had a planning consultant working with us since we were turned down. The planning consultant did the appeal document for us.

I've since had a meeting with our architect and he's going to do some preliminary sketches for an alternative design, which to me sounds a much more dramatic change. Currently the gable end of the roof faces the road while the properties either side have their roofs pitched differently with the gable end at the side. The planning officer said that because the gable end faces the road, raising it 1.2m would make the houses unacceptably dominant (we contest this as currently the houses are quite squat, lower than the surrounding houses and the small amount we'd raise them wouldn't make them any more dominant than houses in the immediate vicinity - the road slopes up away from our house and the houses three and four doors down are far more dominant because of their raised position) However, the architect's genius idea (??) is to change the pitch of the roof so that it slopes away from the road, with the gable ends at the side and velux windows to the front and dormers at the back. That to me seems far more drastic, but the architect is adamant as we're not in a conservation area, the planners are less concerned about maintaining the houses in the state they were originally built, but more with the look of them once the work is done.

I have no idea if he's right... seems bonkers to me, but I'm prepared to try everything. Given we were going to have to lift the roof off to do the original design, lifting it off and repositioning it might not be so different?

namechangedtoday15 Fri 04-Dec-15 18:51:24

I think that sounds like progress, hope it works.

I know when we were going through planning, our architect set out that the houses closest to the road are often treated differently. We are in a cul de sac, the right hand semi - the right hand semi in the pair of houses next to us is the house at the start of the cul de sac, closest to the road. They tried 4 different designs for a double storey side extension (the side adjacent to the road). None was accepted. They were only allowed single storey. We applied within months of their application with the same design as their first option and it went through no problem.

So if your increased height is away from the road that might work.

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