Obtaining planning permission can be a tricky business, replete with legal pitfalls, and taking expert advice is always wise if you want your building project to succeed. The point was soundly made by one case in which the High Court gave the green light to conversion of a terraced house into three flats.
The local authority had refused consent for the conversion on the basis that a roof extension had already been added to the property in breach of planning control. Although a certificate of lawful development had been issued in respect of the extension, it was not inset by the 20cm shown on the approved plan.
That decision was, however, later overturned by a government planning inspector after the owner of the house appealed. The inspector found that her proposals conformed to local and national planning policies and were in keeping with the character and appearance of the area.
After the council launched a challenge to that decision, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government acknowledged that the inspector had erred in law in failing to give adequate reasons as to why she decided to grant retrospective permission for the roof extension.
In refusing to quash the inspector’s decision, however, the Court found that, even had she given fuller reasons, her conclusions would inevitably have been the same. It was fanciful for the council to suggest that the failure to inset the roof extension by just 20cm had the effect of rendering the entire conversion project unacceptable in planning terms.