Log in | Register

Appeal: PD fallback justifies 'unacceptable' living conditions

Sydenham / Martin Read

An office-to-residential conversion scheme in south London that would lead to 'unacceptable' living conditions' can go ahead, an inspector has ruled, because a more profitable permitted development fallback scheme would cause even greater harm.

AUTHORITYLewisham Borough Council

The appeal concerned a former storage building in Sydenham, south London. The building is separated from a church building (now in use as a children's nursery) by a small yard area to its west; its east side is adjoined to a house that has been divided into flats.

In 2017, the council granted permission for a change of use from class B8 (storage) to class B1 (office) use, and the addition of a two-storey side extension. In 2018, prior approval was granted for alternative plans to convert the two-storey building into ten flats. 

Two months later, the appellant made a new application incorporating the previously approved side extension and a second floor mansard roof extension, to provide nine flats over three floors.

Inspector Spencer-Peet noted that under the appeal scheme, some residents living on the ground floor of the building would have a "severely restricted" outlook towards an "extremely close" brick wall.

Some of the first floor flats would overlook an "extremely restricted space" serving as a fire escape for the adjoining nursery and would also have a "poor" outlook, he added, ruling that overall, the proposal "would not provide acceptable living conditions".

The appellant argued that the scheme would provide better living conditions than the existing prior approval scheme, which it considered a fallback position and material consideration. The council argued that there was no real prospect of the fallback scheme being implemented because more works would be needed to make the flats planned under prior approval marketable.

Spencer-Peet sided with the appellant, noting that because it had been demonstrated that the prior approval scheme would be more profitable, there was a "greater than theoretical" chance it would be implemented.

The inspector noted that the outlook from a number of habitable rooms would not be improved under the appeal scheme compared to the prior approval scheme, and would lead to "unacceptable" living conditions.

However, he concluded, it would still represent an "overall improvement" because each of the flats would have more internal amenity space, and when taking the second floor flats into account, there would be "a better level of outlook for a greater number of proposed units". The appeal was therefore allowed.

The inspector’s report – case reference 3220004 – can be read here.

Image credit | Martin Read