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Sky-high cost of home balcony row

PUBLISHED: 11:44 16 July 2009 | UPDATED: 09:17 12 August 2010

A RESIDENT who failed in a High Court bid to keep a balcony he built in his home has been saddled with more than £10,000 legal costs. Gary Phelps, from Bromley, tried to convince High Court judge Mr Justice Owen to overrule Bromley council and a governme

A RESIDENT who failed in a High Court bid to keep a balcony he built in his home has been saddled with more than £10,000 legal costs.

Gary Phelps, from Bromley, tried to convince High Court judge Mr Justice Owen to overrule Bromley council and a government planning inspector after he was ordered to remove his first floor balcony above an extension on his house in Homefield Road.

He asked the judge to order the new communities secretary John Denham to have the case reconsidered by a different inspector but the judge ruled last Friday that the decision should stand, forcing Mr Phelps to remove the railings on the extension roof. He also ordered Mr Phelps to pay the Government's legal costs of £10,398. The case centred on whether the inspector was entitled to conclude that the dimensions of the railings, 11.4 metres in length, took the overall volume of the extension built by Mr Phelps to more than 50 cubic metres, the limit for such additions that do not require planning permission under the permitted development regulations.

Lawyers for Mr Phelps claimed that the inspector, in his decision in January 2006, got his figures wrong when calculating the overall volume of the extension including the railings. However, Mr Justice Owen said: "The appellant has not established an uncontentious error of fact, and secondly he was as responsible as the London Borough of Bromley for the measurements to which the inspector worked."

Mr Phelps built the extension in the belief that it came within the permitted development tolerances that allow development providing it does not increase the cubic content of the original house by more than 50 cubic metres or 10 per cent, whichever is greater.

However, the council issued an enforcement notice in June 2005 requiring him to cease using the extension roof as a balcony and to remove the railings. That enforcement notice was backed by the inspector on appeal, after he found that the overall cubic capacity of the development including the railings themselves - but not the area enclosed by them - exceeded 50 cubic metres.

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