Economic Reality Telling Factor in Planning Appeal

Aesthetic opinions differ dramatically and, in planning disputes, one property owner's dream is very often anathema to another. That was certainly so in one case in which the Court of Appeal opened the way for the demolition and replacement of a £4.75 million mews house despite a neighbour's determined objections.

The house had in the past been used as offices and, latterly, for storage purposes. It had a tortuous planning history but a developer was finally granted consent to change its use to residential and to demolish it and replace it with a luxury new home. A government planning inspector found that the development would enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area in which it stood. It would also have the material benefit of providing an additional family housing unit in an area where such accommodation was scarce.

The owner of an adjoining property successfully challenged the planning permission before the High Court on the basis that the inspector had failed to give adequate weight to the possibility of the property returning to office use.

In allowing the developer's appeal against that ruling, the Court of Appeal noted arguments that if the house reverted to office use it would be worth only about £1.4 million, as compared with the £4.75 million that she had paid for it. There was no real possibility of such a reversion, which would make no commercial or economic sense. The developer's proposals, which did not conflict with local planning policies, stood to be considered on their own merits and that is what the inspector had done. The planning permissions were restored.