Five Odd Planning Permission Battles
11 October 2019
An Englishman’s home is his castle, or so the saying goes. And not only are Brits protective of their homes, but many also feel they have the right to change them how they see fit. When planning permission authorities get in the way of eccentric Brits doing weird and wonderful things to their homes, things can get a little odd.
Here are five of the strangest planning permission battles in recent history:
Guernsey man declares his land an independent state
A planning permission dispute took an unexpected turn when Guernsey resident Steve Ogier declared his land an independent country, himself king and his daughter a princess, before announcing plans to take the battle to the UN.
The Guernsey government had rejected Mr Ogier’s planning permission application for a one-storey eco-home on his 150ft by 50ft plot of land in 2018. Instead of simply accepting the ruling, Mr Ogier took an unusual step which plunged him into a long battle with the courts.
He announced his land was now a micronation called Everland, installed a flag, and fought against the injunction brought against his construction work by the Development & Planning Authority at the Channel island’s Royal Court.
He contended that authorities had no right to stop his desired construction as he was the sovereign ruler of his independent state. However, the judge ruled that Everland was not an independent state, due in part to it having no population.
Deputy bailiff Richard McMahon said: “Although there may be an element of absurdity in the way the argument has been developed by Mr Ogier, I take the view that any challenge to the jurisdiction of this court must be taken seriously.”
In October 2018, Mr Ogier declared he wanted to take his case to the UN. However, according to Everland’s Facebook page, he remains embroiled in battle with Gurnsey authorities. His attempt at kinghood has also caused a number of problems for Everland - such as his post and electricity being shut off for a time.
Take That Jimmy Page
Celebrities seem to become embroiled in planning permission battles more regularly than the rest of us - no doubt because they tend to have the money to turn their extravagant property dreams into reality. However, when they live next door to another celebrity, the battles can turn particularly sour.
Former Take That heart throb Robbie Williams found this out the hard way when he decided to incorporate an underground gym and swimming pool into his Grade II-listed London pad. There was just one thing standing in the way of his plan: his neighbour, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.
Page was concerned that the renovations could harm his own Grade I-listed Gothic revival property, with construction vibrations potentially damaging the stained glass, decorative plasterwork, and ceramic tiling interiors.
This wasn’t a small neighbourly feud however; the two musicians have been locked in a bitter battle over the work for five years.
At the end of 2018, a Kensington Town Hall committee gave Robbie the green light - with conditions. Work cannot begin until councillors receive assurances surrounding independent vibration-level monitoring. Furthermore, Williams may be asked for a bond which would be forfeited should any damage occur.
Committee chairman councillor Quentin Marshall suggested the two celebrities hash out some of the issues face-to-face.
He said: “It seems they are not that far apart. It’s slightly frustrating - I know the two principles are very busy, but surely they can find a way to talk, which might lock many of the problems.”
However, this outcome now seems further away than ever, with reports that Williams has taken to ‘tormenting’ Page by blasting Black Sabbath music and imitating Page’s former bandmate Robert Plant (although it should be noted that, for his part, Page has denied this).
Sarcastic planning application goes viral among architects
Architect John Jessop was baffled by the level of red tape he had to cut through in order to gain permission to build a simple 20ft by 20ft storage barn on a farm. While not an unusual situation in itself, Mr Jessop’s response - which he wrote back in 2008 - was certainly unique.
He filled in the planning application in a way that was professionally sound - but also absolutely dripping with sarcasm.
Under the ‘Context Analysis’ section he wrote: “The use is compatible with a farm because it is a farm building [...] It is located where it is because it is in the most convenient place - being on the farm and near the farmhouse [...] The density is like on a farm, the social context is a farm in the country, the economic context is farming in the United Kingdom in 2008 (which is not very economic) [...] The opportunities are to store equipment inside rather than the outside. The constraint is the planning system.”
Within the ‘Access’ section, he offered: “There is a bus service to North Wooton which allows people from the local towns to come and visit the proposed shed.”
Mr Jessop was keen to point out there was no malice in his application, but that he had found the detailed requirements of the planning application for the shed “a little silly”.
However, his sarcastic application was extremely well received among architects - many of whom reached out to say they’d encountered similar issues. One respondent even noted he’d once had to fill in a design access statement for a window.
Big cats saved as planning application succeeds
Nottinghamshire Council decided to retroactively grant planning permission for a big cat enclosure: a move which may have saved the animals’ lives.
Reece Oliver had constructed an enclosure for his two lions and one puma - which he ‘loves like children’ - on green belt land, without first getting planning permission.
While planning permission officers advised refusal, councillors gave the enclosure the green light. Amongst their reasons for doing so were limited visual impact and a lack of alternative homes for the big cats.
Mr Oliver had rescued the two lions from a circus abroad, and adopted the puma from a UK shelter that could no longer keep it. He said that, had he not won his planning permission battle, he would have had no choice but to put down the animals.
Speaking after the meeting, he said: “It's the best feeling in the world, it's the best result ever.
“I love those animals, they're like children to me. It would have been like taking my children off me.”
However, the council has made it clear the planning permission is only in place for the lifespan of the current animals.
Ed Sheeran wins battle to keep pub sign
Ed Sheeran came under fire earlier this year due to a 16ft pub sign hung outside his £1.5 million Suffolk estate’s drinking den.
While the pop star had received planning permission to create the private pub, which he named the Lancaster Lock, he had not gained permission to erect the giant sign outside. According to the Daily Mail, this ruffled a few feathers amongst locals who were already concerned about the singer’s new wildlife pond and sauna.
The hitmaker was initially ordered to remove the plaque, but then council bosses U-turned on the issue and granted him retrospective consent.
Council planning officer Robert Scrimgeour said: “The signage does not cause me any concern and I judge that there is no harm arising from them that would adversely affect the character of the farmhouse.”
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