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Appeal Decision 169 - Certificate of Lawful Development.

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December 2010 - Code a00169


Summary of Case (appeal allowed): 


The property is a two-storey mid-terrace house, with an original two-storey rear projection. The property is located within a conservation area. The application was for various works including a proposed external metal staircase, which would be located within the side infill area. The staircase would have a spiral design, typical dimensions, and would provide access from a new side door at first floor level to the rear garden. 


The Council’s reason for refusal was as follows: 


“The external stair to the rear of the property does not constitute permitted development by virtue of extending beyond the side elevation of the building, contrary to Part 1, Class A.2(b) of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (No.2) (England) Order 2008”. 


The Inspector stated the following: 


“There are two issues that have been raised by the Council that I have to determine. These are whether the external staircase is development requiring planning permission and/or whether the staircase is permitted development. 


By virtue of s.55(1) of the 1990 Act development means the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land but s.55(2) excludes from development, among other things, the carrying out for the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of any building of works which do not materially affect the external appearance of the building. The external spiral staircase is a modest structure located in the corner between the rear wall of the building and the rear extension. It is unobtrusive and its materials, colour and design are in keeping with the character and appearance of the dwellinghouse. I consider that it has no material affect on the external appearance of the building and it is therefore not development that requires planning permission under the 1990 Act. 


It was established in the Hammersmith and Fulham case that an external metal staircase was an alteration to a dwellinghouse pursuant to Class A of Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the GPDO then in force4 and that it was therefore permitted development. However, in this appeal I have to consider the GPDO in force at the time the application was made, that is, amendments that came into effect on 1 October 20085. By virtue of Class A of Part 1 of Schedule 2 of the current GPDO the enlargement, improvement or other alteration of a dwellinghouse is permitted development so long as it does not offend any part of A.1 and, in this case because the appeal site is in a Conservation Area, any part of A.2. 


The only parts of A.1 that refer to enlargement, improvement and alteration are A.1(b) and A.1(c). The staircase does not exceed the height of the roof (A.1(b)) and A.1(c) is not relevant as it relates to the height of the eaves. A.2(a) and (c) are not applicable in this case and A.2(b) refers to the enlargement of a dwellinghouse only and is therefore not relevant. I therefore disagree with the Council’s interpretation of the GPDO and consider that the external staircase is permitted development”. 


[Note: In my opinion, this appeal decision is highly questionable. I find it very hard to accept the above conclusion that an external spiral staircase, with typical dimensions, does not constitute development (on the basis that it does not materially affect the external appearance of the building). I accept that this type of assessment is subjective in nature, and that there are certainly many examples of alterations to buildings that are typically considered to not require planning permission by virtue of section 55(2), such as the installation of a tv aerial, letterbox, cat-flap, drainpipe, etc. However, at the same time, it is commonly accepted, both by LPAs and by Planning Inspectors, that alterations such as the installation of a satellite dish or a rooflight, or a significant change in the design or materials of a window, etc, will almost always constitute development. In my opinion, the proposed external spiral staircase would affect the external appearance of the building to a far more significant degree than all of the latter examples. 


Furthermore, although the Inspector indicates that an external metal staircase would only need to be assessed against the parts of A.1 that refer to “enlargement, improvement and alteration” (i.e. A.1(b) and A.1(c)), in my opinion it could be argued that such development should also be assessed against A.1(i). The latter limitation states that “Development is not permitted by Class A if … (i) it would consist of or include … (i) the construction or provision of a veranda, balcony or raised platform …”. In my opinion, it could be argued that not only would the top landing of the staircase constitute a “raised platform”, but also that each individual step (or at least those more than 0.3m above natural ground level) would constitute a “raised platform”, and that therefore the staircase would not be permitted development].


Main Conclusions: 


·       It is possible for an external metal staircase to be classed either as not development, or as permitted development.
[Note: In my opinion, the above conclusion is highly questionable]
[Relevant to: General].


Link to the Planning Inspectorate’s appeal search webpage on the Planning Portal website: 


Links to the “Appeal Decision Notice” and other associated documents (e.g. drawings, etc): 


·       Appeal Decision Notice: 

·       OS Map: 

·       Existing Elevations: 

·       Proposed Elevations: 





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