Anyone gaining planning permission for a new development, be it a major developer constructing large apartment blocks or a homeowner getting consent for an improvement that exceeds permitted development rights, will need to make sure they abide by the details of the planning permission they are granted.
What nobody can do is seek and gain permission for one thing and then construct something substantially different. This includes various details of what is built, but also the materials involved.
Considerations may range from safety concerns to the need to match a development to the character of the local built environment – especially in conservation areas.
Failures in this area can lead to councils taking enforcement action, so you must get the right materials from builders’ merchants to ensure the development meets the terms of the planning consent.
Often enforcement takes place on very small developments, but Greenwich Council has just imposed an enforcement notice on a project of much greater scale than anything it has previously taken action against: the Mast Quay Phase II built-to-rent development, comprising 204 apartments in three towers.
It issued the notice against developer Comer Homes due to there being “at least” 26 elements of the development that were at variance with the plan agreed when permission was granted in 2012.
Cabinet member for regeneration Cllr Aiden Smith blasted the work undertaken by the developer as “a mutant development that is a blight on the landscape, local conservation zone and heritage assets and views”.
Some of the flaws have to do with specific elements being missing, such as a failure to provide rooftop gardens or a children’s play area, while others include less of what was promised, such as smaller windows and balconies and a reduction in parking spaces and commercial space for shops and offices.
Other concerns include a lack of wheelchair access to balconies or the residents’ gym, as well as too few disabled parking spaces.
However, that is not all; the actual materials in use were also part of the problem, with the fact different cladding was used to that agreed being another concern. It is not just that this detail alone was a breach of planning permission, but that cladding is a particularly sensitive issue after Grenfell, especially in London.
That is not to say that the cladding involved was illegal in itself; it would have needed to be compliant with fire safety regulations. Had the original cladding agreed become problematic as a result of what came to light after Grenfell, that would have been something that could be changed in consultation with the council. In this case, Comer Homes went its own way.
It will not be the only recent major apartment development in east London to be pulled down and rebuilt.
Construction firm Taylor Wimpey announced in May last year that it was going to have to demolish two blocks in Hackney Wick that were halfway through construction when a “potential structural issue” was uncovered in an inspection.
However, that instance was due to a fault, not a failure to use the materials or provide the features outlined in the planning agreement.