Council Planning Blunder Led To Loss of Privacy

New development built with views into woman's home

Council told by watchdog it had caused resident an injustice

Hammersmith & Fulham Council has had to pay for a screen to be put up after a new development was built looking straight into a woman’s home.

It failed to enforce a planning condition to make sure a new study was built with translucent glazing to ensure the woman’s privacy, according to an ombudsman report.

The woman, referred to only as Ms Y, complained in early 2020 that the new study looked straight into her living room. The council initially granted planning permission for alterations to a building and the demolition of another building on a site at the back of Ms Y’s property.

An officer said that the first-floor study would be glazed with translucent glass so that people in the building couldn’t see into Ms Y’s property. But clear double glazing was put in three areas of the study with white double glazing in a fourth spot.

A planning enforcement officer contacted the developer’s agent referring to the original planning permission and explained the clear windows would need to be replaced.

But because the council had approved changes to the original planning permission – including using clear-glazed windows instead of translucent in parts of the study – the developers were not required to change them. Instead, the property’s owner offered to put curtains up.

After looking at photos taken by Ms Y, the Ombudsman said there is a clear view into the glass study. Photos taken from the study show that Ms Y’s conservatory and garden are clearly visible.

The study window is just 11 metres from Ms Y’s home, but the ombudsman said a temporary trellis is currently helping to obscure the view of her home from the study. The report said, “The overlooking and loss of privacy is currently mitigated by the tall trellis which has been erected. This trellis is unauthorised, and should the Council require it to be removed I consider an alternative form of screening to protect Ms Y’s privacy would be appropriate.”

Hammersmith and Fulham Council accepted its officers overlooked the privacy requirements and approved clear glazing in error. Although it was not the council’s intention to allow clear glass, after seeking legal advice the council found it cannot make the owner install translucent glass.

The watchdog said, “The council’s failure to properly consider the details submitted to discharge the planning condition and the approval of clear rather than translucent glazing is fault. This fault has caused Ms Y an injustice.”

Jacob Phillips – Local Democracy Reporter

June 17, 2022