A Developers Disaster!
Last week, a developer in Southend was ordered to transform two self contained flats back into the original family home it once was. Here, our columnist Melinda at Giles Wilson brings you the facts and her view:
This story highlights the drama that can surround planning permission. Here, a house was converted into two self-contained flats without planning permission, and although we do not know how this came to the attention of Southend Borough Council, when it did they took action against the owner of the property. This was in October 2018, and was for a breach of planning permission. The flats have been referred to as “illegal flats” in the media. Apparently they had been converted in November 2016.
The owner then applied for “retrospective” planning permission. This was within his rights, and so Southend Borough council planning had to make a decision on the planning application. They refused the right to convert the house, that was already converted, into two flats. This refusal was in February 2019, in response to the application made in December 2019.
The owner then appealed against that decision and so the case then went to the Planning Inspectorate and the decision was made in August 2019 that the Council’s decision was upheld.
So the owner now has to put the property back to a house.
It may seem obvious that where a house has been converted without planning permission it must be put back as it was. But the law is not that simple. As can be seen, the owner had the right to apply for retrospective planning permission. In this case, he was refused. He was refused on the basis of the Southend Borough Council’s Core Strategy 2007 for development principles. He was not refused by way of a punishment.
What seems fair on one hand, can seem unfair on another. In this case, the Council concluded that the change of use (from house to flats) would have an unacceptable effect on the housing mix in the area.
But the Council also have to take into consideration whether in their decision making they are breaching anyone’s human rights because maybe enforcement action would interfere with the owner/occupier’s human rights. In this case, they decided that the Council’s decision was more in the public interest and that their decision was reasonable.
What do we all think?
Were there tenants in those flats?
How far should a managing agent go in checking that a landlord has the right to use a property as flats?
This Column is by Melinda at Giles Wilson Solicitors who will be reporting on local and international news weekly.
For any legal advice please call Melinda or her team on 01702 477 106 or visit one of Giles Wilson's offices: 1711 London Road Leigh, 54 Leigh Broadway, 5 Roche Close Rochford