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Planning Blow for Residents of Historic Garden Squares

In a case which revealed a wrinkle in the law which is bound to cause consternation amongst well-heeled residents of London’s historic garden squares, the High Court has ruled that an extension which was built in strict accordance with planning permission was nevertheless unlawful and should be removed.

The owner of a terraced house in Kensington had obtained full planning consent for a lightwell extension and steps leading down to the private gardens at the heart of the square. The project was well advanced when the local authority announced that it would seek an injunction to stop the works and to enforce their removal. The council cited the terms of the London Squares Preservation Act 1931.

The owner responded by applying for consent under the Act. However, the council took the view that the works did not fall within the ambit of the legislation and that it had no power to grant the application. That was on the basis that the project did not constitute ‘underground works’ within the meaning of the Act.

In dismissing the owner’s judicial review challenge to that decision, the Court found that the council was correct in its conclusion that the application was ‘invalid’ and that it lacked jurisdiction to grant the consent sought. The Court acknowledged that its decision meant that many rear extensions backing onto London squares, even those built with planning permission and in place for many years, would now be regarded as unlawful.