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Planning laws are complex and before starting any building work it is always wise to seek professional advice. In one case that proves this point, a couple who almost doubled the size of their country cottage without planning permission were ordered to demolish the entire building.
The couple had knocked down a large part of the cottage and replaced it with a new house that had a floor area almost 70 per cent larger than the original building and an internal volume nearly 100 per cent bigger. The property was in the Green Belt and the local authority's response was to issue an enforcement notice requiring them to level the building to the ground.
The notice was later upheld by a government planning inspector on the basis that the works had gone beyond merely extending or enlarging the cottage and that the end result was a 'new' building that was fundamentally different from its predecessor. Although it did not have a harmful visual impact or interfere with any important views, it was, by definition, harmful to the openness of the Green Belt. The inspector's ruling was subsequently upheld by the High Court.
In dismissing the couple's challenge to the latter ruling, the Court of Appeal rejected arguments that the inspector had failed adequately to consider alternatives to the building's complete demolition. The inspector was entitled to find that it was an integrated whole and could not be split into acceptable and unacceptable parts. The house was an inappropriate development in the Green Belt and there were no very special circumstances that justified its retention.