Planning and Development
Planning applications to the Council are required for “the carrying out of building works, engineering or other operations on or under land, and the making of any material change in the use of any building or other land.” This includes the conversion of buildings into flats. Single family dwelling houses (i.e. those not divided into flats) carry certain “permitted development rights” not requiring a planning application but these need careful interpretation and in conservation areas like ours additional restrictions apply.
If you wish to carry out building work or make alterations to your house, however minor, it is always worth discussing your proposals with a planning officer at the Town Hall. It could save you a lot of time and money later. You might also find it helpful to contact CRASH to get some idea of the likelihood of approval or objection to your development by your neighbours.
The following documents provide helpful information on how Camden seeks to manage, protect and enhance the South Hampstead Conservation Area (formerly the Swiss Cottage Conservation Area):
After discussing your proposal with a Planning Officer and determining that permission will have to be applied for, (normally the case in this Conservation Area) you will be required to provide professionally drawn plans, photographs and a description of the intended work together with a completed application form (available from the Planning Department) plus fee (which varies according to the type of application). It will usually take the Council about eight weeks to make a decision.
Planning applications are determined by The Council Planning Committee comprising elected councillors of all parties. Planning officers (Council employees) process and advise on all applications and have powers delegated to them to determine simple non-contentious applications themselves. They can also advise, before submission, whether an application is likely to be successful or not.
In 2006 Camden adopted a new Unitary Development Plan which deals with development density, land uses, environmental matters such as parking, landscaping, design, overlooking, light and so on. It sets out the Councils aims and priorities in the use of land in the Borough and the policies used to achieve them through their planning decisions.
The last few years have seen an increasing number of basement developments in the area. In 2011 Camden commissioned Arup, the global consulting engineering company, to do a study of the implications of such developments and all basement planning applications are now considered in the light of Arup’s recommendations contained in Camden Planning Guidance 4 (CPG4) “Basements and Lightwells”. This new 33 page publication provides information on permitted development, basement impact assessments, planning and design considerations as well as the risks of flooding in the area and should be studied before any future basement developments are proposed. You can find out more about the current situation with regard to basement development in this conservation area by referring to the 'Basements' page of this website.
The Council usually grants permission with conditions (e.g. materials used must match existing etc), and that permission usually applies for three years after it has been granted.
In the event of a permission being refused or a failure to issue a decision within the specified period of 8 weeks an appeal can be made to the DoE although it is usually cheaper and quicker to discuss the decision first with the planning officer dealing with your case in order to ascertain if a revised submission would have more success.
What You Can and Cannot Do
Any demolition, however minor, requires consent. Any building work requires permission. If you do not have permitted development rights, speak to a Planning Officer.
Roof top development (i.e. dormers, terraces and balconies) is prohibited on the front and side roofs. Extensions to the roof line to the rear of properties may be allowed but there are restrictions regarding size and design.
Demolishing a garden wall of over one metre requires permission.
Any tree works (e.g. pruning, lopping, removal) requires notification and the tree must not be touched until the notice has run its course. This is so that a Tree Preservation Order may be served to protect the tree.
Pavement crossovers (kerb dips) for car parking spaces in front gardens are now generally refused permission. Because of the number of gardens which have been cemented over, water run-off is a cause of concern in an area which is already on Camden ’s list of streets at risk of flooding. Where permission is granted - usually only for houses in single occupancy - there is a restriction on the area the paved area scan occupy and some planting should be retained.
Satellite dishes require permission if erected on a divided/converted house. They must not be erected above the highest part of the house and must be below a certain size.
How to Find Out about Planning Applications
The Council must officially advertise all applications within its Conservation Areas. It does so via a fortnightly bulletin and a weekly notice in the Ham & High “Public & Legal” column at the back of the Classified Ads. Additionally the Council endeavours to attach a notice to a lamppost close to the property concerned but it no longer sends copies to immediate neighbours.
The Planning Department keeps records, by address, of all existing applications and can tell you whether an application is in the pipeline or if permission has been granted. Speak to the duty planning officer at the Town Hall on 020 7974 4444 or go along and have a look at the plans for yourself. Alternatively this information can be found on line at “Camden Planning Application Search” or better still, to keep informed on a permanent basis of applications for any forthcoming building works in your immediate neighbourhood, you can sign up for regular information on Camden’s online planning application notification – see the related links on the home page of this CRASH website.
If you suspect that unpermitted building work is going on you should check with the Planning Department at the Town Hall that a current permission exists for any work. Check the details and the extent of the work which has been permitted and satisfy yourself that what is being done complies – quite often it does not! A Planning Officer will help you interpret the plans if you are in any doubt.
If there is no permission, or the work varies from that permitted, be sure to inform the Enforcement Officer immediately on 020 7974 4444. You can also report a suspected breach online.The process is qick and easy. Go to the Camden Coucil Home Page, enter “planning breach” in SEARCH, and then choose the “Reporting suspected breaches of planning regulations” option. You should also convey your concerns by writing to the Head of Development Control Team, Planning Department, Camden Council, 5 Pancras Square, London N1C 4AG, and follow it up with a phone call to check progress. It is a good idea to send a copy of your letter to CRASH, and another to one of your local councillors – Nayra Bello O'Shanahan, Leo Cassarani or Simon Pearson, all of whom have a good working relationship with this residents' association.
Camden Council has a team of Enforcement Officers whose job it is to research, report and take action on planning breaches. They can instigate the serving of a Stop Notice to halt all work immediately and enable the preparation of a proper Enforcement Notice. Failure to comply results in a hefty fine (it can be up to £20,000) and the removal of the offending work and restoration of the original.
Unfortunately Camden ’s Planning Department, especially the Development Control Team and the Legal Department, are seriously under-resourced. The result is that the proper policing of development does not always take place - a situation which unscrupulous developers exploit to their advantage. The only way the Council gets to know of breaches of regulations is through complaints by the public.
So get to know your neighbourhood, be vigilant, question everything, accept nothing, be a nuisance and be persistent with the Council until something is done. And keep CRASH informed.
How to Object to Planning Applications
You have 21 days after publication of the application to register your objection in writing to the planning Department, quoting the application number. Once again this can also be done on line at http://planningrecords.camden.gov.uk/Northgate/PlanningExplorer17/GeneralSearch.aspx. After this period you cannot object unless an appeal is lodged.
Always bear in mind that any development must “preserve and enhance” the Conservation Area as a whole. If the application in question appears not to do so you should object. “Loss of amenity” such as your property being overlooked, taking your light or the likelihood of increased noise, are grounds for objecting. Out of scale, out of character or unsympathetic overdevelopment, the filling in of an important open space between buildings, the destroying of special features or the loss of trees, hedges and greenery are also all very important considerations. Numbers of living units within a building, room size, foundations, fire escapes and the proximity of other buildings, etc are all well regulated so an objection on these grounds alone is superfluous. The same goes for the noise and disruption of building works. Objecting on the grounds of the personal inconvenience you will suffer will have little influence on the planning committee’s decision. Be concise, unemotional and martial your facts. Most importantly encourage other neighbours to support your objections.
The more objections you muster the more likely it is that your concerns will register with Council. An objection from an amenity group such as CRASH or more than 3 objections ensures that the application will be referred to Camden's Members Briefing Panel and so will not be recommended for automatic approval even if the assigned planning officer is so minded. The Briefing Panel can then request an application be referred to the the Develeopment Control Committee at which Planning officers and Councillors fully debate and consider the proposal and at which you are allowed three minutes to personally voice your objections.
Party Wall Notices
When proposed building works fall within 10ft (for a 10ft notice) or 20ft (for a 20ft notice) of any structure pertaining to an adjoining owner it is necessary for the person proposing the works to arrange for a “Party Wall” Agreement to be signed. The adjoining owner’s rights are fully described in the London Building Act 1939. Briefly, the adjoining owners are required to appoint surveyors to prepare schedules of their properties and agree conditions of work. If that work is uncontentious, and has the adjoining owners approval it may be possible to allow the surveyor acting for the person proposing the work to act for both parties. Generally, however, it is necessary, and preferable, as an adjoining owner, to appoint your own surveyor. The object of a “Party Wall” Agreement is to ensure that any damages to the adjoining owners’ properties did not exist before work started and thus enable legal action to be taken in the event of careless building practices. In addition a diligent surveyor can help to mitigate some of the inconvenience caused by building work going on the other side of a wall by ensuring that the stability and safety of your property are safeguarded and that all appropriate measures are taken to ensure that noise, dust and distress are kept to a minimum.. All fees incurred are settled by the owner proposing the works. Any works begun without the existence of a “Party Wall” Agreement entitle adjoining owners to have work on site stopped.
What Should I Expect of Next-door’s Builders?
Under the 1939 London Building Acts (1939) Part VI, section 47(4) the building owner carrying out the work must:
Execute the whole of the work at their sole cost.
Take all reasonable precautions and provide all necessary support to retain your land and building.
Make good all structural and decorative damage to your building in matching materials.
Hold you free of any liability in respect of any injury or damage caused by the work.
As far as possible, carry out the work from their side. If access from your side is needed they must give adequate notice and protection and repair any disturbances after in matching materials.
Adhere to all building regulations and by-laws and execute the work in a sound and workmanlike manner.
Carry out the works with reasonable expedition and so as to avoid unnecessary inconvenience to you.
If Damage occurs to your property the person initiating the work must be responsible for any fees reasonably incurred.
Remove screens, scaffolding, dust and debris as soon as possible.
Particularly noisy work carried out between 9-4pm Monday to Friday and 9-1 ONLY on Saturdays. (Keep an eye on this! Too many builders on the larger developments are flouting this rule).*
* Please note that the regulations regarding hours of construction work have been relaxed by the government during the Covid-19 pandemic. Building work will now be permitted until 9pm Monday to Saturday, and even longer hours - including Sunday working - may be allowed at the discretion of the local planning authority. The Ministerial Statement says that these temporary changes to regulations should not be extended beyond 13th May 2021.