A High Court Judge has ruled that a woman who painted red and white stripes on her Kensington townhouse did not act unlawfully in her choice of colour scheme.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea had served the property’s owner, Zipporah Lisle Mainwaring, with a notice under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, in an attempt to force her to cover over the red and white candy stripes. It is believed Ms Mainwaring chose the eccentric colour scheme following a feud with her neighbours who had blocked her plans to demolish and rebuild the property.
The order stated that she was required to repaint “all external paintwork located on the front elevation white” within 28 days of the notice, but Ms Mainwaring appealed the Council’s decision.
Initially appeals heard by both a Magistrate’s Court and Isleworth Crown Court sided with the Council but, not content with their decision, Ms Mainwaring launched judicial review proceedings at the High Court in London.
Ruling in her favour and quashing the Council’s notice, Judge Mr Justice Gilbart questioned: “Is it proper to use a section 215 notice where the complaint is not lack of maintenance or repair, but of aesthetics?”
He ruled that using section 215 “to deal with questions of aesthetics, as opposed to disrepair or dilapidation, falls outside the intention and spirit of the planning code” and as such Ms Mainwaring’s choice of colour scheme was entirely lawful.
The Judge also highlighted the Crown Court’s finding that Ms Mainwaring painted the house in stripes out of pique, adding: “She may well have done, but section 215 does not entitle one to address the motive of a landowner.
“A garish – to use the judge’s phrase – colour scheme may have come about because of an owner’s eccentricity or because of his/her pique. The section does not apply any differently to the latter than it does to the former.”
He stated that the “effect of upholding this notice will be to give an LPA [Local Planning Authority] power to cause buildings to be removed, altered or repainted because the LPA (and magistrates or crown court on appeal) dislikes the appearance thus created, on grounds that relate only to aesthetics”.
He concluded: “I am therefore of the view that it is an improper use of section 215 to use it to alter a lawful painting scheme, when there is no suggestion that there is any want of maintenance or repair in the land.”
Andrew Skinner a partner with Palmers who specialises in property law and planning application issues, said: “Although this case centred upon a rather unusual dispute, it serves to highlight the fact that local authorities do not always get things right, particularly regarding planning laws.
“Anyone who feels that planning regulations are being applied to their property improperly or unfairly, should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.”
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