Householder planning application: can we appeal against the council’s decision to refuse our house extension?

Question: The council has refused our “householder planning application” to extend the rear of our house by 10 metres. They say that it would be too big and out of character with the surrounding area.

Our garden is very deep and could easily accommodate a large extension. Also, many of our neighbours have extensions of a similar size so we think the council’s decision was unfair.

We were told these applications were easier than seeking traditional planning approval. But can we appeal?

Answer: Applicants have the right to appeal against a council’s refusal of a householder planning application if received within 12 weeks from the date of the decision, according to Section 78 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990.

Householder applications are straightforward, so expect your appeal to follow “written representations” proceedings, which means submitting your case to the Planning Inspectorate for consideration.

Legislation and case law require that each appeal be determined on its own merits and the appointed inspector will consider the council’s development plan policies — particularly those relating to design, amenity and heritage/conservation if relevant.

From your brief description it sounds like your extension would not be out of scale/disproportionate to the size of your property or be out of character with neighbouring properties.

You may have grounds for an appeal but I would stress that the decision will be dependent on the inspector’s own assessment.

Over the last 10 years the Inspectorate has on average received 4,500 to 5,500 householder appeal applications per year and of these between 35 and 40 per cent have been allowed.

In a survey, both councils and appellants lauded the rigour and quality of decisions made by the Inspectorate. However, 90 per cent of respondents complained about delays.

Last year this prompted an Independent Review with the aim of “unlocking” an estimated 35,000 houses that had been tied up in the appeals process. It is not known how many of these potential houses will be allowed to succeed, since these cases have not yet concluded.

While the recommendations in Rosewell’s Independent Review focused on accelerating the process for larger complex appeals, the lengthening time it takes for the Inspectorate to determine smaller householder appeals could impact on the living standards of many existing homeowners.

In some cases, homeowners requiring additional space are choosing to enlarge their existing home due to the prohibitively higher costs of moving.

In 2017, an estimated 27 per cent of London homeowners chose this option, which was the largest proportion of any region in the UK.

Despite receiving 217 fewer householder appeals than in 2017/2018 the Inspectorate in 2018/2019 failed to meet its own target to determine 80 per cent of appeals within eight weeks (85.3 per cent and 75.9 per cent respectively).

In reality it took on average 6.4 weeks longer (14.4 weeks in total) as the performance measures do not factor in the time between the Inspectorate receiving an appeal and the official start date.

The Inspectorate will remedy this by ramping up its recruitment of specialist case workers with the aim of improving turnaround times for appeals following written representations proceedings.

Hopefully you won’t have to wait 14 weeks to receive your decision.

Selwyn Atkinson MRTPI is planning associate director at GL Hearn, part of Capita plc. He cannot answer your questions individually but we will try to feature them here.

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