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The Council stripes back: verdict on Kensington property

Posted on 29 January 2016

The Council stripes back:  verdict on Kensington property

An owner who painted the front of her property with red and white stripes has lost her appeal against the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's notice to repaint the building white.

Neighbours of the "stripey house" were offended by the garish stripes on the front of the building. UK owners generally have the right to paint their property whatever colour they choose, subject to listed building or conservation area restrictions. 

However, local planning authorities do have discretionary power to serve a notice under section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 where it appears to the council that the amenity of the area is adversely affected by the condition of the land or building.  A notice under section 215 is commonly referred to as a "tidy up notice" and normally relates to matters such as clearance, tidying, re-building and external works.

In May 2015 the Borough served a section 215 notice on the owner requiring the building to be repainted in white.  The owner unsuccessfully appealed against this notice. When determining the case, the magistrates' court took into consideration the location of the property within the Kensington Square Conservation Area (KSCA).  Where a building is situated in a conservation area there is a duty to pay special attention to the "desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area".  While the court did not say garish colours were automatically unacceptable in a conservation area, it did find that visual integrity was fundamental to the KSCA.  In the context of the surrounding properties, which were painted in a limited palette of colours, the red and white stripes caused an adverse effect on the amenity of the area.

When considering works to the façade of a building, even ones which do not require planning permission, it is important to consider its impact on the amenity of the area, particularly when in a conservation area.  Such impact needs to be considered in the context of the local surroundings and the concept of "amenity" approached with a healthy dose of common sense.

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