This client had received planning permission for a new house on a site in Croydon. He had also discharged a planning condition asking for details of the materials that he proposed to use.
When he came to start work on the house, he discovered that the zinc cladding he had agreed with the council for the roof would be too expensive. So he sourced a cheaper, but still attractive and high-performing, alternative.
The new material was a fibre cement slate product by Cedral, known as ‘Thrutone Smooth’, coloured blue-black. It is a product specifically designed to be sleek, low-profile and therefore suitable for contemporary dwellings.
Unfortunately, the council refused an application to change the approved roof material. They said that the new material was not of the same high quality as the zinc that had been approved. They did not explain why. They said that the new tiles were easily damaged, but did not explain how they had reached their conclusion.
We appealed the decision on the client’s behalf and were delighted when the appeal was allowed and the new material was approved.
The key mistake that the council made was that they compared the zinc and slate and decided they preferred the zinc. This was not a valid approach to take. The planning issue is not whether one material is preferable to another (it is not a comparison), it is whether the proposed material in any particular case is appropriate in and of itself.
The council also failed to take account of the area. It was not a sensitive location (not a conservation area, for example). There was a lot of variety in the housing styles and choices of material. Finally, there was no zinc anywhere else in the area!
This is a good example of how case officers can make the wrong decision in an application. They decide whether or not, in an ideal world, the zinc should be replaced with the new material. Perhaps, in a perfect world, it wouldn’t be. But that wasn’t the question before them. The question before them was whether the material proposed was good enough. There is no requirement in planning law that the ‘perfect’ (usually most expensive) material be used – it simply must not harm the character and appearance of the area.
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