Agenda item

18 St Edmunds Avenue, Ruislip - 3255/APP/2023/592 - Ruislip

Retention of single storey rear extension involving demolition of existing extension, conversion of roof space to habitable use to include 1 x rear dormer, 2 x front dormers, installation of 2 x roof lights to the front roof slope and 3 x roof lights to the rear roof slope and conversion of roof from hip to gable end with alterations to fenestration - Retrospective Application.


Recommendations: Approval


RESOLVED: That the application be approved


Retention of single storey rear extension involving demolition of existing extension, conversion of roof space to habitable use to include 1 x rear dormer, 2 x front dormers, installation of 2 x roof lights to the front roof slope and 3 x roof lights to the rear roof slope and conversion of roof from hip to gable end with alterations to fenestration - Retrospective Application.


Officers introduced the application.


The petitioner organiser was in attendance and addressed the Committee.


Since May 2020, no fewer than nine applications had been made for a variety of extensions at ground and first floor level. Officers and Members had been largely resolute in resisting the proposed changes, supported also by the Planning Inspectorate. It appeared now that the applicants had ‘worn down’ officers to the point that there was a weary acceptance that the house now built was acceptable. Whilst the officers’ recommendation was noted, this should not be a done deal.


The applicant and their architect had consistently, and without attempting to engage with neighbours, ridden roughshod over the planning system and policies. By mashing together permitted development and planning permission they had built a house that would not get planning permission in its own right. It was worth noting that this proposal was significantly bigger than applications previously refused by the Council. It was also worth noting that the same architect had adopted very similar tactics at nearby No. 31 St Edmunds Avenue, resulting in a building that did not yet have planning permission and at which there was a live enforcement case.


The petitioner appealed to Members to stand by residents who played fair, respected planning policies, and to not give in to applicants and architects who played the system. By mixing and matching permitted development with planning permission petitioners felt that the development was now out of scale and character with its surroundings. For example, whilst permitted development allowed for the large rear dormer which had been constructed, it only allowed for a four-meter deep ground floor rear extension. The neighbours had said ‘no problem’, they would build the 5.1 meter ground floor extension allowed by the Council through planning permission, ignoring the fact that that the planning permission only allowed a much more modest roof extension. Also, the current large lantern window in the roof above the porch was out of character and petitioners would like to see something in keeping with the original house and scene.


The report stated that the 5.2 meter ground floor extension did not comply with policy but it did not extend beyond the neighbouring properties’ rear walls. In fact, the ground floor protruded further than the neighbours’ rear building lines. This point was a contentious matter for petitioners as since the very beginning of the process petitioners had continuously informed the Council that the architect’s drawings misrepresented the position of the neighbouring properties, along with other discrepancies such as windows being positioned incorrectly for No. 16’s representation, presumably to minimise issues with privacy before the condition for obscure glass was added. Homes on either side of the development were depicted longer than they are, so whilst the extension at No. 18 had been built roughly to depth on its plans, the permission for this extra large extension was only granted by the Council with the single reason that it ‘would not extend beyond either of the neighbouring properties’ (see application 665).


There was even an enforcement case raised in regard to this and the large outbuilding in October 2021. Petitioners hoped that this explained why they were disappointed to once again see this incorrect justification for an exception to policy. The report said that the rear dormer was larger than policy allowed but that it had the ‘fall back’ of permitted development. However, it also stated that this application would be assessed as a whole and the cumulative impact assessed. Surely if looking in this context of the effect of both the extra large rear extension, permissions in the roof and the ground floor, along with the large outbuilding, it was clear to see the scale and bulk was incongruous to that of the surrounding area. Petitioners considered that a consistent approach to decision making required the Council to refuse consent for the current retrospective application as the building was much bigger than in planning application 3835, which was refused because of the position, size, scale, bulk, design and massing of the roof extension. Therefore, approval now would be inconsistent with the previous refusal reasons. It also begged the question that if a developer can apply for all these exceptions to policy as individual elements in separate permissions, then mix them to create something much bigger than a design refused for being too large two years previous, why not just grant planning permission in the first place and save all parties, including the Council and taxpayer time, money and stress. Were there flaws in the consistency of the Council’s planning policy and decision making process? Petitioners were concerned that this would set a precedent to applicants with the time and inclination to apply this method to create more of these supersize developments, which were out of character in modest residential areas such as this. Petitioners understood that precedent setting was not considered a material matter but as the officers’ report drew direct comparisons to other developments in the immediate area, petitioners felt this point was relevant and important.


Petitioners thanked the planning officer for including conditions for no HMO, obscured glass and restricted opening windows as these had been important matters for petitioners throughout the process.


As a final note, petitioners reiterated that they were not opposed to the property being developed appropriately, with a design which was harmonious to the surrounding area and that respected the original character of the house, but the continuous submission of inappropriate plans had become an extremely undesirable situation. Petitioners appealed to the applicant that in the event the application was approved, to not enter any more plans for further development. The house would have five to six bedrooms, four bathrooms, generous living areas and a very large outbuilding which should be more than adequate for the family’s needs. Petitioners asked the Council to add this as a condition of approval as it would give petitioners reassurance that, after three years, nine applications and an appeal, this would finally be the end of the matter. Notwithstanding officers’ recommendations, petitioners appealed again to Members to apply a sense of fair play. This manipulation of the system should not be rewarded. Members should refuse the applicants again and send a signal that the policies of the Council were not to be messed with.


The applicant and agent attended and addressed the Committee.


The intention was to make No. 18 St Edmunds Avenue the family home. The location held great appeal as it allowed the applicant’s children to walk to the local primary and secondary schools.


Initially the project was split over the lawful development certificate and for planning permission on the advice of Hillingdon planning officers, however with an overlap on the rear dormer design, the applicant had been invited to regularize the permission in this application.


On the approved applications the planning permission referenced the lawful development certificate and the lawful development certificate referenced the planning permission, demonstrating that these were both considered in full knowledge of each other when the approval was granted.


The building was in scale and of similar characters to the neighbouring properties and although it had five bedrooms it was still of modest size as two of these bedrooms were smaller single rooms and two were located on the ground floor, maintaining the original design. The development of a five-bedroom home also benefited the community by increasing the Council's housing stock of family dwellings.


No. 18 Saint Edmunds Avenue was in a poor state of repair, neglected and run down prior to the development. Now the street benefited from a presentable and pleasant home.Materials were rendered with dark slate, found on other buildings in St Edmunds Avenue and locally. The overall design of the building was consistent with other houses in the street as highlighted in the planning officer's report. It was clear that there were numerous properties within the surrounding area that were similar in appearance, and it was considered that the development did not harm the character and appearance of the host dwelling scene.


In consideration of neighbour’s privacy, the applicant had opted for obscure glazing in all side-facing windows even before it had become a proposed condition. Furthermore, the windows in the rear dormers, adjacent to the properties at No. 16 and No. 20, also featured obscure glazing, providing enhanced privacy to those neighbouring households. The distance to the rear windows of the properties No. 21 and No. 23 Keswick Gardens was more than 21 meters to minimize any overbearing or overlooking impacts.


In relation to the house's appearance, it was noted that the property on the western side of St Edmunds Avenue were built on a significant incline compared to those on the eastern side. No. 18 St Edmunds Avenue had one of the largest elevations from the road to the finished floor that made it difficult to directly compare it to similar sized houses on the eastern side which were built more level to the roads.


As stated in the officer’s report, the development was considered acceptable with regard to the character of the host dwelling and the surrounding area. This was not a development-led project, but a family home project. The suggestion of sub-division or conversion into an HMO was speculative and incorrect. St Edmonds Avenue already had homes ranging from two to six bedrooms and whilst condition 7 would have no bearing, it would be the first property in St Edmunds Avenue to have this condition imposed on it. The Borough stock of family dwellings should be protected and if this condition alleviated residents’ fears and met Borough objectives, the applicant could see the purpose of it.


The planning officer had completed a comprehensive report deciphering, assessing and justifying the scheme whilst addressing the concerns of neighbours and residents, which had been appropriately addressed in the additional conditions. The applicant requested approval of the application in accordance with the officer's report and recommendation.


A written representation had been received from Councillor Corthorne as Ruislip Ward Councillor.


Several residents had been in touch expressing their concerns over the totality of this development in the context of its setting and the impact on neighbouring dwellings.  


Councillor Corthorne had explained to them that the fate of any application came down, not to the views of individual Ward Councillors, but to the case officer's assessment of the overall planning balance in the context of the Council's local development framework. Councillor Corthorne had also explained that it would be unlikely that a developer would proceed with a development without first taking planning advice, as to do otherwise would be to risk incurring some very significant costs.


The officer recommendation of approval was noted.


However, in considering the case officer report, the Planning Committee might usefully seek clarity over the length of the extension. It was understood that officers were indicating it was no longer than extensions/ outbuildings of neighbouring properties, which was disputed, and it was suggested that the dimensions of the constructed building were not consistent with those submitted in the application.


Officer comments on these points for transparency and as a matter of public record ahead of determination on these points would be important.


There had been questions regarding previous enforcement action. In response and to clarify, officers noted that there had been planning permission granted previously for a single-story extension and some roof alterations. These were investigated by planning enforcement, who had confirmed that the depth of the single-story extension was 5.1 meters deep, which was in general accordance with the approved plans. There was a slight overhang to the roof. On the roof alterations, officers clarified that in terms of the hip to gable roof extension, this had been carried out in accordance with ACLD. The key difference between the previously approved planning permission and the current application were fenestration changes to the front and the width of the rear dormer.


Members asked for clarity over the length of the extension. It was clarified that the extension was in accordance with planning policy, however the roof was slightly overhanging.


In summary of the previous enforcement action, it was clarified that this related to an outbuilding. It was clarified that if there was a further application, it would have to come to Committee.


Members noted that there was a condition for the house not to be divided into a HMO, and asked how binding this was. Officers clarified that if the applicant wanted to change this site into an HMO, they would have to apply for planning permission, which would be assessed against the HMO policy. If the property was sold on, the new owners would have to apply for planning permission to convert into an HMO. Officers clarified that planning permission was not required for an HMO of up to six residents, but this condition took away the permitted development right to make the conversion for any HMO.


Officers’ recommendations were moved, seconded and when put to a vote, unanimously approved.


RESOLVED: That the application be approved

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