George Calvert on the obscure wrangling that's turning heads in Oxfordshire
It has been reported that Amal and George Clooney, who bought Mill House in Oxfordshire after marrying last year, are now causing something of a stir with their plans for redevelopment, in particular the installation of CCTV cameras.
Planning permission was granted by South Oxfordshire District Council on 15 May for the demolition of an outbuilding and erection of a pool house, annex, glasshouse and home cinema room. However, it appears that the plan to install eighteen CCTV cameras has met with resistance from the local community. The planning application comprised the erection of eight wooden poles with CCTV cameras affixed in the gardens together with ten CCTV cameras attached to the building itself.
Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 planning permission is required for the carrying out of any development of land. There is an exemption applicable to the installation of CCTV, but as Mill House is a Grade II listed building, that exemption does not apply and planning permission is necessary.
Where planning permission is required, an application must be made to the local planning authority (the LPA), in this case South Oxfordshire District Council. The LPA must not only consider their development plan, but also undertake a period of consultation where views on the proposed development can be expressed.
To avoid getting bogged down with the NIMBY brigade, only 'material considerations' can be taken into account during the consultation period. These include issues of privacy and nuisance, but exclude factors such as loss of a private individual's view or loss of value to an individual's property.
Eye and Dunsden Parish Council submitted a response to the consultation recommending refusal of planning permission. They identified the potential infringement of privacy of neighbouring properties and the visual intrusion into the Sonning Eye Conservation Area by the eight wooden poles as reasons for such refusal.
It is not clear what potential infringement of privacy the parish council had in mind, as no objections to the plans were lodged by local residents and Mill House occupies its own island in the middle of the Thames. Unfortunately, as privacy is a 'material consideration', the district council had no choice but to consider the objection before making a decision.
Equally, the local conservation officer raised no objection, provided that the cameras to be affixed to the Grade II-listed building were attached in such a way that they could be removed in the future. As such, the parish council's objection on the grounds of an eyesore in the conservation area appears to have little weight. Unfortunately, as the objection was in relation to the impact of the development on a conservation area it was a 'material consideration' that the district council was obliged to consider.
As it turned out, the Clooneys amended their planning application to reduce the height of the wooden poles with the cameras affixed in an effort to appease the parish council. This appears to have been successful as the parish council have now withdrawn their objections. Not only has this action removed the only objections to the planning application, it may also have ensured a friendlier reception for the Clooneys in the local community.
George Calvert is a solicitor at Pemberton Greenish