Many landowners feel that their property has unfairly been lumbered with a restrictive designation. They will claim that the council has unfairly stuck them in the Green Belt or in a conservation area, let’s say. Often just how things are, but sometimes something odd really has happened.
In this case, there was a small postwar house that had once been part of a school. The council had included the school in an area of Urban Open Space in its local policy map. When the house was sold off, the land it stood on continued to be considered UOS, even though to anyone passing by it looked like a typical suburban house on a suburban street.
The client felt that the house was poky and uncomfortable. They also felt that since the plot was over 500 sqm, there was plenty of room for two decent-sized houses rather than one that didn’t meet modern space standards. The challenge was that when Bromley council had turned down a previous application for the site seeking to get planning permission on Urban Open Space, it had made it clear that this was going to be treated as if it truly was land that needed to be protected.
While the previous application for planning permission on Urban Open Space had been for two detached houses, our design was for a pair of semi-detached houses. As these, like the existing house, would be set at a right angle to the street, the depth of the buildings would be similar when seen from that side. Most of the extra built-up area would be away from the street, taking up a small part of the very large garden. In total, even though we would have two three-bedroom houses that met space standards instead of one that didn’t, the net reduction in undeveloped space was only 24sqm.
Conscious that however unjustified the Urban Open Space designation was, it was in place, we spent a lot of time and effort on landscaping, not only making sure that a protected tree would be completely unharmed, but adding new trees, bushes and rain gardens. Compared to the existing garden, we created a much richer, more biodiverse setting.
It turned out that this was not enough to persuade the council to grant planning permission on designated land. However, convinced (correctly, in our opinion) that this was a high-quality application, our client chose to appeal. The Planning Inspector carefully assessed the benefits of the two well-designed houses versus one unsatisfactory one and considered whether that would outweigh any harm to the Urban Open Space. He judged that the balance was clearly in favour of the new and better homes and gave our client permission via an appeal.
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