Agenda item


Report of the Assistant Director (Planning)



The Planning Officer advised the application was before Committee as Northaw and Cuffley Council had submitted a major objection which was subsequently downgraded to an objection. While there was no major objection which would require the application to come before Committee, the application remained on the agenda as the agenda had been published prior to the major objection being downgraded.


The Planning Officer presented the report as set out in the agenda. This was a householder application for the erection of two storey rear, part single storey and part two storey side and front extensions, incorporating a new roof structure with raised ridge height and associated alterations. In the dismissed appeal, the Inspector’s decision was on a single issue, the hipped design of the roof, and the current application was for a gabled design. This would raise the roof height by 10mm compared to the previous application which was considered de minimus. The Parish Council’s objection did not identify any harm from the proposal and in officers’ opinion, none would occur. The amendments to the design roof had overcome the previous reasons for refusal of planning permission as well as the single issue raised within the Inspector’s appeal decision. There was no conflict with any current or emerging policies or national policy and the application was therefore recommended for approval subject to conditions.  


Robert Stubbs, registered to speak as a resident but addressing the meeting in a Parish Councillor capacity, spoke regarding the application:

“I’m going to explain why we have reduced our objection from major to just an objection. When the Parish Council takes a view, it takes it purely on the paperwork submitted with the application; we don’t have any qualified planners so it’s very much laypeople taking a common sense view. This tends to lead to a more cautious approach in terms of objections where perhaps we go for a major objection in more cases than we should. In this case, frankly, we got it wrong. We misapplied one of the neighbourhood planning policies and there should only have been an objection. So why are we in front of this Committee? I need to explain process and a bit more detail.


We only get to see the officer report five working days before this Committee sits. To change our view as a Parish Council, being a democratic organisation, we need to convene a meeting, consider the officer report and then reconsider our decision. Five days is very tight, unrealistic and unreasonable to allow us to do that. We had no advance warning of the case officer’s view or rationale in relation to the key issues. This is the key issue on our neighbourhood plan. We only became aware of the difference of interpretation when we got the public agenda five working days ago. We see no reason why we can’t have a summary of the planning officer’s position many more days or possibly weeks in advance of five working days; that will give us a better opportunity to better understand the difference of opinion, change our mind and save this kind of thing happening in the future of unnecessary reports coming to DMC.


To be clear, appearing at this Committee is not something we want to do and we prefer to avoid it. We are left in the position tonight where we have a case which should never have come to this Committee but the fault lies with the way the system works. In our view, the whole system is not fit for purpose and is both inefficient and ineffective. We discussed generic concerns with your officers months ago and we have not even received an acknowledgement, let alone a response. We would ask this Committee to review its systems and work with officers to make it more efficient, more effective and more productive, and avoid wasting case officers’ time and our own time. Thank you.”


Councillor Barry Knichel, Northaw and Cuffley Parish Council, spoke regarding the application. He felt the Committee meeting had been a waste of time and described it as symptomatic of a dismissive approach that had led to the Council’s reputation being damaged. Asked by the Chair to comment specifically on the application, Cllr Knichel said he was speaking about the context of the application and that there was no point speaking if he was censored as this was the only way the Parish Council could be heard. The Chair responded that there were other ways of communicating and Cllr Knichel replied that each one he had tried had been ignored. The Chair advised that Cllr Knichel needed to speak according to the requirements of the Constitution and either speak specifically on the application or step down. Cllr Knichel stepped down.


Glen Christen, the applicant’s agent, spoke regarding the application.

“The current application is a householder planning application for alterations and extension to a detached dwelling house located in Cuffley. The property is not listed or subject to a heritage designation such as conservation area status or article 4 direction of a local listing. The application constitutes a resubmission of a previous scheme refused planning permission last year.


Last year’s refused scheme was appealed to the Planning Inspectorate who dismissed the case based on a single item of contention, namely the fact that the proposed roof extension took the form of a hipped roof rather than a gabled roof. No other concerns were raised and indeed the Planning Inspector stated specifically in his decision notice that the overall scale and massing would otherwise be appropriate within the context of the street.


The Inspector has concluded that the development would not raise the ridge of the property significantly when compared to the adjoining dwellings. The applicant has therefore amended the design of the previous scheme so that the roof takes the form of a gabled roof rather than the hipped roof. As per Inspectorate decision, all other elements remain as previously proposed, as they were not deemed inappropriate by the Inspector. The ridge height is also identical to that previously considered acceptable by the Planning Inspectorate by a technical increase of one centimetre which, in my view, is too small a difference to be considered material. Due to the applicant having addressed the Inspectorate's sole item of contention from the previous scheme, the current proposals are considered acceptable in planning terms and have therefore been recommended for approval by officers.


The application had originally been called in on account of a major objection from the Parish Council, on the basis that the proposed development seemingly showed a roof height that is in contravention of Policy D 1 of the Cuffley Neighbourhood Plan. Policy D1 of the Neighbourhood Plan states that the ridge heights are required to be in conformity with the adjacent properties to retain a continuous frontage. However, not only has the Planning Inspectorate previously concluded that the roof height was acceptable within the context of the street, but officers also noted that Policy D 1 of the Neighbourhood Plan applied only to new developments, such as subdivisions, plot subdivisions, infill and backland development, rather than household extensions.


The planning officer had recently informed the Parish Council of the previous appeal decision, as well as the applicability of Policy D 1. If I'm not mistaken, the Parish Council has since downgraded their previous objection; however, it seems that downgrade occurred too late in the process for the planning application to be removed from today's agenda. For these reasons, I would agree with the planning officer's recommendation and conclude that planning permission ought to be granted, since the sole item of contention previously outlined by the Planning Inspectorate has been addressed.”


Members discussed the application and key points are summarised below:

·       A Member asked about drainage as the house would have additional bathrooms. Officers advised this was not a material planning consideration.

·       A Member noted it would be helpful to understand why Parish Council representatives, who had left the meeting, were displeased and see how this could be avoided in future. The Chair suggested this could be raised at the Constitution Review Group.

·       A Member had visited the property and noted the proposed roof design was more in keeping with the row of houses. She was pleased that concerns about brickwork and glazing had been addressed.

·       A Member asked whether planning was looked at in relation to the size of an extension. Officers replied that there were no set standards in terms of size as all sites were different and assessed on merit; officers refer to Policies D1 and D2 which related to design and quality of design. 



The Chair confirmed all Members were content they had read and heard enough to make a decision about the application.  He advised Cllrs Lass and Tunstall would not be eligible to vote on the application as they had arrived late.



(11 in favour and 0 against)


That planning permission be approved subject to the conditions set out in the report.


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