Narrowest house in London shoehorned into gap just six foot wide must be demolished

The owner of the infamous property that shot up in a residential street in Leyton that was dubbed by the national press as ‘London’s narrowest house’ has lost his appeal against Waltham Forest Council’s decision to enforce the removal of the structure.

The property that was squeezed between a gap in a row of terraced housing was constructed largely from plywood, replacing a garage in early May last year.

Enforcement officers served a temporary stop followed by a full stop notice and enforcement notice requiring the owner to remove all the self-containment works including the bathroom, kitchen and internal partitioning. In addition, the enforcement notice required the owner to restore the garage to its original condition before the unauthorised works were carried out.

"I do not consider that the structure ... is of a high standard of design..."

“I do not consider that the structure…is of a high standard of design…it looks singularly out of place, in an area that has maintained its late nineteenth/early twentieth century character remarkably intact, and I conclude that the design of the structure is wholly unsatisfactory”

The owner appealed against the enforcement notice. On 28 April 2014 the Planning Inspectorate dismissed the appeal and upheld the Council’s enforcement notice in full.  “Although the unauthorised works carried out were considerable, they seem to have been implemented within a comparatively short space of time. As there is nobody currently living on the premises, there seems no sound reason why the building cannot be restored to its previous condition equally quickly. Three months should, in my experience, be sufficient, at a time of the year noted for lengthening daylight and warmer weather, for the requirements of the enforcement notice to be complied with…”

Not only that, the owner has to pay the Council’s costs.  Rather cuttingly, the Inspector noted “In the appeals made on grounds (d) and (e), the onus is on the appellant to make out his case on the balance of probabilities. The evidence submitted on both grounds was so thin that neither had any realistic prospect of success. Pleading both grounds in the first place and then providing no evidence to substantiate bald assertions amounts to unreasonable behaviour giving rise to the unnecessary expense to the Council of the time required to defend these grounds.”

Appellants (and Councils) need to substantiate their cases at appeal.  The award of costs is a real threat.  We have successfully obtained a partial award of costs against a Council for doing just that!  See our post here.


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