To consider the attached report. This report originally went to the Area Plans South Meeting on 18 April, where it was referred to the DDMC.
The Principal Planning Officer presented a report on the enforcement investigation into the land raising in the rear garden of 49 Manor Road, Chigwell, as requested by Area Planning Sub-Committee South at its meeting on 24 January 2018.
The Principal Planning Officer informed the Committee that the site contained a detached dwelling house in an area characterised by large single dwelling houses on spacious plots. The original house had largely been removed and remodelled, through various planning applications, and this had been a complex site to deal with. As part of the ongoing works to refurbish the house and site, the rear garden had been remodelled, trees cut down (none of whom had not been covered by a Tree Preservation order), the height of the land along a strip along the western boundary adjacent with the rear garden of No 47 had been raised and a pool building and a shed erected along the southern boundary. A planning application for the land raising had been received and refused by Area Planning Sub-Committee South in January 2017; the Committee was being requested to consider the subsequent enforcement action by Officers.
The Principal Planning Officer stated that it was a fact that the land had been raised along the western boundary of No 49 to the rear (southern) boundary along the boundary in a narrow strip due to the original height and undulation of the garden as it rose to the south. The area was minimal in width due to the ground undulations of the garden in this area and the height of the raising had varied from around 400mm along most of the length to 800m on the area of land that the shed was on, and as an estimate averaged about 566mm (or half a metre). The area of land raising was highest on the section boundary where the shed had been erected. It was also the case that no enforcement action was requested by the Sub-Committee when the planning application for these works was refused in January 2017. It was also the case that only this Committee had the delegated authority to authorise enforcement action.
After further site visits and evidence gathering, Officers took the decision that the land raising was not sufficient to justify further enforcement action. This decision was made in accordance with national and local polices (the Councils Local Enforcement Plan) after careful assessment of the facts revealed by the continuing investigation.
In the professional opinion of Officers, the land raising which had occurred did not cause significant harm in terms of overlooking as the area of garden which had the potential to be overlooked was at the far end of No 47 rear garden and there was no direct overlooking of the rear elevation of No 47. It was also the case that it was not unusual for the rear gardens of properties to be overlooked by neighbours from rear elevations or due to different land levels, and some degree of overlooking was the norm especially in an highly developed urban area such as this location.
When considering if enforcement action was justified, it was the case that the planning system did not exist to punish wrong doers. It was mandated to consider what harm had been caused, and if it was caused whether it was proportionate and expedient to take enforcement action to remove the harm or reduce its impact. These principals were laid out in national Policy and the adopted Local Enforcement Plan. In this case whilst the land had been raised, the investigation showed that it was not as high as previously alleged and the harm caused was, in the professional opinion of Officers, not sufficient as to justify the service of an enforcement notice, which would stand up to scrutiny in an appeal.
Finally, the Principal Planning Officer apologised for not reporting back to Area Plans Sub-Committee South on the Officer decision to take no further action, following the completion of the enforcement investigation.
Cllr Heap opined that this issue had taken far too long to conclude; in addition, Area Planning Sub-Committee South had expressed a desire for enforcement action to be taken over the land raising, and therefore there should be enforcement action taken. However, the Committee agreed with the Officers that the harm from the land raising at 49 Manor Road in Chigwell was not sufficient to authorise enforcement action and noted the actions taken by the Council’s Enforcement Officers. In response to a question from the Committee, the Principal Planning Officer confirmed that any waterlogging of the garden next door would be dealt with under Land Drainage legislation.
(1) That the action taken in response to an enforcement investigation of land raising in the rear garden of 49 Manor Road, Chigwell, be noted.