Don’t try this at home

An inspector has upheld an enforcement notice requiring the demolition of an outbuilding used as three flats at a property in west London, determining that a lawful development certificate for the development was not genuine (DCS Number 200-004-993).

The story begins in 2012 when the council granted a LDC for a single storey detached garden outbuilding for use as a gym/games room/storage area. The appellant explained that he was later handed the decision notice that purported to grant planning permission for the use of the outbuilding as three self-contained flats by a contractor who claimed that he knew someone at the council who could obtain planning permission for that use. The appellant was not able to provide a date on which he was handed the decision notice, although he said that he did seek to verify the validity of the notice by reference to the council’s website, and provided a screenshot of the website showing the purported decision for use of the outbuilding as three flats.

The council explained that on 17 January 2014 a number of unauthorised changes were made to the records relating to the LDC for the gym. These changes were the subject of an investigation undertaken by the council in relation to a number of similar unauthorised changes to the planning records alleged to be made or potentially made by a former council employee. The council gave evidence to the inquiry to confirm that the investigation had concluded, and that there was sufficient reliable evidence to show that the purported decision notices were fraudulent. The inspector reasoned that the appellant could only have been handed the decision notice after 17 January 2014 which in turn cast doubt on the appellant’s recollection that he relied upon the information on the council’s website in deciding to construct the outbuilding. In addition, aerial photographs provided by the council showed the site in July 2013, at which time the outbuilding appeared to be either complete or nearing completion. Furthermore, unlike the application that resulted in the LDC being granted for the outbuilding for use as a gym/games room/storage area, there was no documentary record of an application for the use of the outbuilding as three self-contained flats. Similarly, there was no record of such an application appearing on the council’s weekly list. The inspector therefore did not accept the appellant’s claim that he was misled by the information of the council’s website, which could only have appeared after January 2014. He upheld the enforcement notice, requiring the demolition of the outbuilding in its entirety.

This is NOT the way to beat the system.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 6.33

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