Hoarding owners win planning battle

Posted: 29th November 2013

RCJThe High Court has struck down a planning inspector’s decision to allow just three months for the removal of a hoarding which was viewed as an eyesore although it had been in place, without complaint, for almost 40 years.

The London Borough of Camden had served a discontinuance notice on the owners of the hoarding and the land on which it stood, giving them 28 days to remove it. The decision was part of a council initiative to do away with hoardings which were viewed as ‘visually harmful’ or otherwise detrimental.

The owners’ appeal was rejected by a planning inspector, who ruled that the length of time that the hoarding had been in situ, and the absence of complaints, was irrelevant to the planning issues. The fact that the owners had only recently spent £100,000 on installing a new illuminated LED panel was also not a material factor.

The court found that the longevity of the hoarding without complaint should have been treated by the inspector as relevant both to the issue of harm and the length of time that should reasonable be allowed for compliance with the notice. The Court nevertheless declined to declare the inspector’s decision unlawful on that ground.

Allowing the owners’ appeal, the court found that the three-month period that the inspector had allowed for compliance was unreasonably short. The inspector’s decision was quashed on that ground alone and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government was ordered to contribute £13,500 towards the owners’ legal costs.