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Can anyone help with planning permission appeal please?

(17 Posts)
AcadHelp Mon 23-Jan-17 09:05:47

DP and I applied to add a bedroom and a downstairs extension to our house. We live on a modern estate just outside a large town. We are defined as living in the green belt, despite it being reclaimed land, as the boundary is the dual carriageway, which we are on the other side of. We copied an extension type that has been approved in several other houses on the estate and used the same architect as two of them. However the application was refused, which came as a huge shock. It seems that the case officer changed a week before the deadline for the decision and the new case officer has decided our application doesn't meet two guidelines. We agree it does not, but believe the council have set precedents for one not being applied on our estate and don't believe the other should be applied in our case. Can anyone please advise based on the below? I am in the process of writing our appeal to be submitted in the next week or so.

- the site visit paperwork, which was only available online after the decision was reached, was completed by the original officer and has a tick next to 'does it meet guidelines', implying that they thought the plans were suitable;
- our total new floorspace would be above 30%. In the last four years the council have approved at least three extensions of this size or bigger on our estate (one was more than 50% larger);
- there is a statement in the decision that says they don't wish to change the mix of housing on the estate, however there are literally dozens of applications, all of which have been granted, to add another bedroom or additional room that could be used as a bedroom on the estate. Three doors down received permission (I know its not the same type of application) in the last few weeks to convert their loft into a bedroom, making it the same type of house as the one we would like and their house is much smaller to begin with (no outside space or garage, hence them building into their roof) hmm

This next bit is more difficult and I'd be very grateful for any advice:

- the proposed bedroom would be above the garage, which is the boundary wall. Whilst there is a guideline stating that walls should not be built to the boundary, ours was the boundary anyway. Additionally it would not, we believe, create a terracing effect with next door as their house is at a slight angle to ours, set back from ours and is down a slope so when you look at them from the front they don't look like they line up, nor do they look like they are even in the same street as there is a bend in the road. They would also be extremely unlikely to want to build to their boundary (currently their drive) as our garden is at the back of their drive with a high fence, so the room would not get much light.

We have also been told (don't know how true this is) that custom is for the first neighbour to be granted permission and the second neighbour who wants to infill to be refused.

Regardless, the proposed solution from the new officer was to only build to within a certain distance of the boundary, creating a room 1.5m wide on top of the garage, which wouldn't be usable as a bedroom. However when I look at previously passed applications, about 3 or 4 have had second storey extensions or even double storey extensions to the boundary. These have had extremely sloping rooves, so the angle disguises the extra bedroom and it retains the full width. We would have considered this but we're not told it was an option - the new officer was adamant the smaller room was the only option.

Finally, the second case officer has handled the case in an extremely unprofessional manner and it's making me concerned that the decision was not made correctly. They called our architect (who we paid a flat fee to handle the case) at 4:30pm on the deadline day and told him that he had half an hour to amend the plans or a refusal would be made. This breeches the guidelines of giving applicants sufficient time - until this point he had only good news to report from the previous case officer. He managed to secure a 2 day extension and the new officer called him and emailed him several times in the next 24 hours harassing him for an answer (this is evident in the email chain), which culminated in him losing his temper the following day and she hung up on him. He should not have lost his temper and at that point I bypassed him and called the planning office to try and understand what was going on, but I feel by only telling us at the last minute she created a very pressured situation that made it virtually impossible for us to come up with an alternative solution. My partner and I both work and so it's only after the fact when I've had time to write the appeal that I've been able to trawl through the council website and find all these examples. We sent them pictures of houses we knew about on the estate, but didn't receive a response, just the email from her to the architect detailing the decision.

Sorry for war and peace - does anyone have any experience or advice they can share please? 77

Seeline Mon 23-Jan-17 09:27:11

Firstly, every application is looked at on its own merits - there a rarely two situations which are exactly the same.

Green Belt policy is national policy. Extensions in the Green Belt must not be disproportionate to the size of the original dwelling. They must not reduce the openness of the Green Belt. Are the other houses you refer to definitely in the Green Belt? Where they in the Green Belt when their extensions were built? Did they require planning permission, or where they built as 'permitted development' which is not affected by Green Belt policy? 30% increase I would say is probably the upper limit of what can be acceptable - has your house been previously extended and the cumulative impact will be counted.
Most council's require a 1m gap from the boundary at 1st floor level. You need to look at the Council website to find the relevant policy in the Local Plan.
The change in case officer will not have affected the decision. they will not have had the final say as all decisions will have been signed off by a senior officer, and possibly been through and intermediate level as well depending on the set up in the Department. The decision will be based on policy quoted in the reason for refusal. That is what you need to check to see if you can amend your scheme to meet the requirements. Council's only refuse permission if they feel that they have a strong case - the decision has to be capable of defence at appeal. Council's will only refuse if they feel it necessary - appeals are costly and take valuable officer time to defend.
You basically have two options - submit an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate (details should have been included wit the decision letter), or request a meeting with the planners to try and design an amended scheme that would be acceptable.

AcadHelp Mon 23-Jan-17 09:35:41

Thanks for your reply. All the other houses are on the same estate, which has always been in the green belt. Our house has not been previously extended and is in the middle of a large (hundreds of houses/flats) estate - it's like any other modern housing estate and only the houses on the outside back onto countryside.

It is interesting that you say previous extensions will be taken into account - when we submitted an example of another house that has had the same extension (upstairs and down - it was this house that gave us the idea to extend instead of move) we were told by the officer that it didn't count as they'd had a conservatory added previously (demolished to build the larger extension) which was included as part of the 'original' floorspace, bringing the extension under the 30%. I did wonder whether we should just put up a cheap conservatory, wait a year then resubmit if that was how the rules were applied.

The council didn't seem interested in dialogue on alteratives - they were only willing to consider the 1.5m room, which has led us to believe we need to appeal.

AcadHelp Mon 23-Jan-17 09:37:50

Sorry, I didn't answer your other question - they all required planning permission and I have found all their cases on the online portal. That's what's making me so annoyed tbh - we're one of two refusals on the whole estate (the other was for someone who wanted to get rid of their double garage and effectively double their house size so I can understand why it was refused), yet I have looked at dozens of applications.

Seeline Mon 23-Jan-17 09:40:34

If the conservatory was original to the house, then demolishing it would have given the ability to add the same floorspace to the new extension.
How old are the properties - it sounds unusual to have such a large estate included in the GB.
Is the bedroom acceptable in GB terms, if the ground floor extension is excluded? ie is it just the 1m gap causing the problem?

Seeline Mon 23-Jan-17 09:43:16

The whole situation sounds very strange. You could try asking for an appointment with a more senior officer to discuss the matter, rather than the case officer, but I think you will need to revise the application in some form to get anywhere with the Council.

AcadHelp Mon 23-Jan-17 09:51:50

Thanks for your help smile

The estate is 15-10 years old (built in stages) and the conservatory was not an original feature of that house, none of them came with conservatories that we know of. In the original consultation documents in 2010 when they designated green and brown belt land the estate was included in the town (this makes more sense to me tbh, it's fairly built up when you get to the inside of it and is built on old industrial use land) however in the final document it is included in the green belt.

If we reduced the downstairs extension (which we did consider in the two days we had to choose) the 1m boundary issue would still be a reason for rejection, so we just left the application as it was. I emailed the chair of the planning committee asking for some advice, who referred me to the senior officer. He then copied in the current case officer (who by this point had hung up on the architect) and she repeated via email everything she'd emailed the architect. They did ask for other cases on the estate so I sent the ones that I knew of in, but didn't get a response, only the refusal sent to our architect and I have since found more examples on the online portal.

We would happily amend the roof to look different or amend the downstairs, but need to retain the width of the garage to put a double bed in the room otherwise it's not worth doing.

namechangedtoday15 Mon 23-Jan-17 09:55:58

When you refer to other houses having been allowed to build upto the boundary line, when were those decisions made? I ask because certainly where we are, there has been a deliberate change in the policy and the Council will not, it seems, allow extensions up to the boundary line even at ground floor level, nevermind for a double storey extension.

Can you perhaps go out partly at the back as well as at the side to get a useful space?

MadameCholetsDirtySecret Mon 23-Jan-17 10:04:17

If you want to appeal I suggest you employ a planning consultant. They will handle the process for you.

AcadHelp Mon 23-Jan-17 10:06:53

They have all been made within the last two years and the residential design guide was completed in 2008 when they overhauled the green belt document. Unfortunately it's the width that's the problem - the internal width is 2.4m so to pull it 1m back creates a 1.4m space that wouldn't be usable as more than a single bedroom with limited/ no furniture.

AcadHelp Mon 23-Jan-17 10:12:01

Thanks Madame, but we don't want to do that - we don't want to throw good money after bad. I may give the senior case officer a call and ask about a roof similar to the ones I've seen on the portal in case that would remove the boundary issue, then take it from there. We still have three weeks to submit an appeal (12 week deadline) so have time to change things.

AcadHelp Mon 23-Jan-17 14:08:24

I have just spoken to the planning manager about a meeting to discuss the amendments and I asked why the site visit marked the plans as within guidelines whereas the ruling categorically stated they were not. He said it was because that would be the judgement of the officer at the time, but that they were allowed to revise their opinion before making a decision. Is this usual please? Especially when the site visit is so crucial in understanding that we would not be creating a terracing effect by building on the boundary owing to the position of the site?

namechangedtoday15 Mon 23-Jan-17 14:16:15

But couldn't your neighbours (or perhaps people who buy your neighbours' house in the future) extend to the boundary? If its on an angle, presumably they could extend in a kind of triangular shape (rather than a rectangle) and you'd get the equivalent terracing effect?

AcadHelp Tue 24-Jan-17 08:06:17

Yes they could, but in doing so they would lose most of their parking space in front of the house, as well as their front access to their garden (all of the back is ours a pat from a gate into their garden) so I'm not sure it would receive permission (you need a minimum number of spaces per certain houses on this estate, although that's something I only found out yesterday whilst reading past applications). It would also likely be a lot of hassle - not sure how they would be able to dig foundations without appropriate access to the site (walls on three sides) although I'm not a builder, there's probably a way to do it! The people who live in it at the moment are a younger retired couple who supported our application, although I know things can change but they've lived there for five years, are very healthy and don't want to move or extend so any potential extension is some years in the future.

I called the planning officer and we have a meeting this week to discuss the boundary wall issue. If there's no possible permutation of the bedroom that they will approve then we will appeal anyway as the guidelines are silent on existing boundary walls and say that if you are building above a garage you need to make the room subservient to the property, in line with existing property styles etc., which we have done - the design copies other above-garage extensions in the street. We have nothing to lose if there's no way of amending the plan.

Interestingly the council approved a 60% increase in floorspace on the estate on the basis that although in the greenbelt it wouldn't affect open space as, like ours, the house is in the middle of the estate. Several others have been granted permission for space above the 30% on the same basis, although that's the most dramatic one.

hangingoutthewashing Tue 24-Jan-17 09:00:28

1/ Get yourself a planning consultant who knows the area well and has a successful track record with similar planning apps
2/ There should be a presidency set from the previous planning that has already been accepted and built on nearby dwellings .
3/ councils (sometimes) have to weigh up the cost of fighting appeals
Good luck wine

namechangedtoday15 Tue 24-Jan-17 09:23:35

I wasn't really asking "would they extend?" more "couldn't they?" so as to say, from the Council's point of view, your assumption that they won't / it would be awkward etc holds little weight - there is a possibility that an owner may want to in the future and therefore the objection based on terracing applies.

I agree that you probably need expert help to take your personal view out of the equation, and to find holes in the process / how the decision has been arrived at.

Kilby37 Fri 10-Feb-17 12:37:17

Hi, I'm looking for people's stories about planning for my phd research, over on the surveys/students thread here on Mumsnet. I'd be really grateful if you could take a look and consider contributing.

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