Appeal Decision 169 - Certificate of Lawful
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December 2010 -
Summary of Case (appeal
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
“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
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
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.
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].
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].
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