Whilst the ‘in-principle’ argument in planning gains more attention, much of our value-added to proposals is ensuring that all the site-specific tests are satisfied and this includes the amenity of future occupiers and the amenity of neighbouring properties. Whilst these impacts are subjective views, many Local Planning Authorities use the same established tests both in terms of the specific issues but in a wider sense by, for example, concluding overdevelopment or event that isn’t possible to develop at all. The more constrained the site (think high-density urban areas for example) the harder it becomes.
Where we identify issues, ideally these will be ‘designed out’ prior to the submission of an application. Design changes can be to the whole building or as simple as frosted glass on a window or angling a window away for the affected receptor, however, certainly in the case of the obscure glazing, this is normally unacceptable for the principal room. So, is there scope to take this on with further innovative thinking? In theory, yes, given that it is enshrined in planning law that applications must be determined in accordance with the development unless material considerations dictate otherwise. A recent appeal decision in the London Borough of Islington offered some flexibility. Planning Policy required new residential dwellings to provide dual aspect accommodation unless exceptional circumstances could be demonstrated. As the proposed dwellings faced each other at a distance of only 6.1m either a solution needed to be found or the dwellings would fail the test of providing dual aspect accommodation. The solution to angle the main windows and to use ‘fritted glass in the upper windows.
Fritted glass is a proprietary approach which includes a pattern of small circles baked in ceramic on the inside of the glass pane across the whole of the pane. They would be black on the inside and white on the outside. They are designed so that light can pass through the gaps between the circles providing sufficient light within the rooms and allowing a view out as the eye filters out the dark and therefore recessive circles. However, when viewed externally, the eye rests on the reflection of the lighter colour and reduces vision through the glass into the room behind. In other words, the occupants get light and can see out (a benefit to obscure glazing) but no one can see in.
Whilst we don’t suggest that this will become the norm, it is heart-warming that there remains some flexibility and creative thinking in a generally formulaic and rigid planning system. Technology moved on so why shouldn’t the planning system respond accordingly? As land becomes more scarce, land prices continue to rise and the planning system continues to encourage making best use of the available land, flexible thinking could unlock some of the more constrained sites.
For more information please contact Partner, Nick Cobbold.