Harrow Council in north-west London rejects more planning applications than most other councils in England and Wales and takes a particularly strict and inflexible approach to applications for householder extensions.
Just Planning receives a lot of enquiries from householders and developers in the Harrow area and, of the appeals we take on, the vast majority are successful. At the time of writing, we have won 8 of the last 10 appeals undertaken in Harrow, with another 5 decisions due shortly.
Nationwide, around 90% of planning applications are granted each year. In last 12 months, Harrow Council granted permission for only 72% of householder applications, according to government statistics.
Some of the decisions it makes on householder applications are particularly harsh. It tends to refuse applications for single-storey rear extensions of greater than 3m in depth, though the government believes that extensions of up to 6m or 8m may now be acceptable. It also disproportionately refuses applications for double-storey side extensions and for larger outbuildings.
Harrow is also relying on outdated policies. Its specific guidance on householder development (the Residential Design Guide) dates from 2010, before the creation of the new national planning guidance (the National Planning Policy Framework) and the more recently changes to permitted development allowing ‘larger home extensions’.
For most of the appeals we win, we find that the Council has not looked closely enough at the site in question and the surrounding area. A development which might not work in one locality may be perfectly acceptable somewhere else, where there are other similar developments on the same street or other site-specific circumstances which mean that some flexibility should be shown.
Last August, we won an appeal on Temple Mead Close, in Stanmore. The inspector agreed with us that the double-storey extension our client had applied for would not be visible from the street and would not be very different to similar extensions on neighbouring properties. Although the extension might not have worked on other houses in the borough, the Council had not seen that it was acceptable at the site in question.
At a property in Queens Avenue, the Council refused permission for a side extension on the basis it would reduce light levels reaching the closest neighbour’s front door. This was a strange position for the Council to take – a front entrance door is not usually considered a valuable source of daylight or sunlight. The Council also disregarded the fact that the ‘affected’ neighbour fully supported our client’s application. The inspector allowed the appeal and the new extension is under construction.
Our client at 30 Woodlands, in North Harrow, proposed a simple single-storey rear extension. This extension was to replace an existing extension at the flat, and would be only 0.5m deeper than the existing structure. The Council was nevertheless concerned that it would affect the amenity at a neighbouring property. However, this neighbour had himself been granted permission for a 5m deep rear extension, which he was poised to begin building. The inspector noted that he saw lots of similar extensions on other properties on the row and decided that there would be no likely impact on the neighbour’s property.
This is just a sample of our recent cases. We have 5 other householders appeals pending in the Harrow Council area and hope that they will be equally successful. We record details of a selection of our recent appeal decisions on our website.