Consent granted by a planning inspector for the conversion of a single-bay garage to living accommodation has been overturned by the High Court after Westminster City Council objected that it would set a damaging precedent in an area of central London plagued by a scarcity of off-street parking.
The garage was on the ground floor of a mews house with living space above and beside it. The council had refused planning permission on the basis that it would result in the loss of a protected off-street residential parking bay and add to already high demand for on-street parking in the densely populated area.
Planning consent was, however, granted on appeal by a planning inspector who took into account the applicant’s arguments that the current occupiers of the house do not own a car and that the garage was currently used for storage. The home owner had argued that car-free housing was encouraged by other local authorities and gave a unilateral undertaking that no on-road parking permit would be applied for and that a like restriction would be imposed on all future occupiers of the property.
However, in overturning the inspector’s decision, the High Court noted the council’s arguments that such an undertaking would not prevent occupants from parking on the street, only from using residents’ parking bays. It was also submitted that the inspector’s ruling would ‘open the floodgates’ to other similar applications.
The court ruled that the inspector erred in law in taking into account the ‘personal, unilateral’ undertaking given by the current home owner as having the characteristics of, and being enforceable as, a planning obligation, when in fact it was not. The court accepted that the permanent loss of an off-street parking bay in such circumstances would ‘create a very unsatisfactory precedent for the future’.