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PD Power

2nd October 2020

This week, we manged to get ‘permission’ to convert a dilapidated corner building in a posh part of Harrow on the Hill into 6 rooms under the HMO regulations.

Previously, we had tried to obtain a 9 room HMO, by going through the planning process.  This had over 50 objections, despite us tweaking the design in line with the planning officer’s recommendation midway, this was refused.

Interestingly, we did not require permission for this site, as it comes under central government legislation which can only be over ridden by the local council if they have applied for an Article 4.  They had not, and therefore, the road was clear for development.  They had no power to block this application.

What was applied for was a certificate of lawful development.  This is simply confirmation from the council that we could do what we wanted to do.  However, it was not, strictly speaking, required.  I chose to obtain it because I did not want to be half way through a build only for the council to turn up at the door step and halt the development, perhaps because something had come to light from the 18th Century.

Given the previous opposition I thought it is prudent to obtain this unnecessary, but necessary, piece of paper in advance of commencing the works.

Strangely, this mere formality was called into committee by one of the councillors.  We simply could not understand why this was done.  It delayed our permission, even though there was not a lot they could do about it as it was outside of their remit.  However, called in it was, much to our and our planning team’s frustration.

If they refused this, it is a certainty we would have been granted the permission on appeal.  In this situation the council would have been liable for costs.  Even by this act of calling it in to committee unnecessarily it could be argued that they could be liable.

There was the usual 3 mins of speech during which we had the opportunity to present from our side, in defence of our position, which was mostly a reminder to them that this was unnecessary and would be a cost to the council should this be a refusal.

The councillor who called this into committee was under no illusion that they had no power to stop this from going ahead.  It was simply to illustrate to all the members that this is happening on their doorstep and they have no power to stop it.

When it came to the vote even the councillor voted in favour of the application, as did every other member.  The decision for approval was unanimous, despite circa 40 objections to the application.

This shows the power the Permitted Development rights have.  Interestingly, the initials PD represents an Indonesian Martial Art, which I have practiced for many years.  Here PD stands for Perisai Diri, which means Self Shield.

This is just one segment in action, however, there are many which can be applied to a whole range of scenarios, and building types, and they circumvent local councils and objections; even if the whole street objected it would have zero relevance.  From one point it can be argued this is unfair.

Whatever the opinions and sentiments, the point being this is a tool which can be wielded with certainty by developers.  It is an alchemical process which can be used to transform the use of a building and unlock profits.

Suresh Vagjiani

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