‘Overbearing’ garden fence in Nelson built without permission is ruled too high and refused approval

A Pendle homeowner has been refused retrospective planning permission for a close-boarded fence built around his back garden without approval, after councillors heard it was impacting on neighbours’ daylight, gardens and home-life.

By Robbie Macdonald
Tuesday, 22nd February 2022, 1:46 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd February 2022, 1:58 pm

Mubashar Sarwar, of Hibson Road in Nelson, put the fence up around his back garden without getting planning permission. The back garden ground levels were also raised or lowered for patio works, councillors heard.

The back garden is next to three other properties, plus a ginnel, which Mr Sarwar had cleaned-up. His retrospective planning application also sought permission for some entrance gates at the front of his house.

Some councillors on the borough’s Nelson Area Committee were tempted to approve the plan at their recent meeting a few weeks ago. However, their approval would have breached existing planning policy guidelines on fence heights. So the Nelson councillors had to refer it to Pendle Council’s more-senior Policy & Resources Committee for a decision.

Hibson Road, Nelson. (Image used for illustrative purposes only). Credit: Google

The case appears to highlight different views on planning applications by different committees.

Mr Sarwar and a representative attended the latest Policy & Resources meeting, where they tried to win councillor’s sympathy for the fence.

Mr Sarwar also has an agent, Hifza Chaudhry of ANW Architects Ltd in Burnley, which drew-up plans to accompany Mr Sarwar’s retrospective application.

Pendle councillors read a planning officers report which stated: “This application has been referred to the Policy & Resources Committee because Nelson, Brierfield and Reedley Committee’s resolution to approve this would represent a significant departure from policy.”

Recommending refusal, the report stated: “The fence exceeds the two metre height normally acceptable between neighbouring gardens due to a retaining wall, which is not sympathetic to the landscape. The wall with the fence above measures three metres from the rear boundary wall at (neighbouring houses) 253 and 249, making it overbearing in appearance and poor design. The fence is also overbearing to, a lesser degree, to the properties to the rear of the application site on Eckroyd Close.”

Earlier planning applications relating to the Hibson Road house had been submitted in the past, for a two-storey extension to the front, rear and northern side, alterations to the roof and a balcony on the front.

Mr Sarwar was represented at the meeting by a man called Mr Hussain, who appeared to be a friend rather than a professional planning agent.

He said: “There seems to be some confusion about this planning application. We have brought some photos. I don’t think you or officers have looked at this properly. We don’t understand why there is such as hoo-hah about this. Mr Sarward has made his garden in-line, he has not raised or lowered it.

“Mr Sarwar has also cleaned the ginnel. Nobody is responsible for it? Who owns it? He has cleaned it up and done an awesome job. He has put in an lot of effort and time, making it look nice and improved the area. Yet we have got this issue. It should not be like this. ”

Regarding the front of the house, Mr Hussain said: “There are some pillars. There’s an impression that he is going to build gates on the top. But no, it will be in-line and make the area look nice.”

Head of planning Neil Watson said there were a few points to consider. There were no objections to the front but the problem was with the rear fence. Cleaning the alley was good but was not a planning application matter. He spoke about numerous issues regarding daylight, openness and neighbours’ rights to enjoy their homes and gardens. The fence was too high and obtrusive.

Labour Coun Mohammed Iqbal asked the planning officer if enforcement action would be taken on trees that grew above three metres in height?

The planning officer replied: “Yes. We have a high hedges policy and will act on obtrusive hedges. It’s a statutory duty.”

Coun Iqbal then said local councillors could intervene in neighbour disputes, if needed. He also suggested the three metre fences were only a bit higher than 2.4 or 2.5 metre fences which could usually be allowed. The difference was minor. He said Mr Sarwar had considered planting trees but these would grow so he thought his neighbours would prefer a fence.

Coun Iqbal then said: “I recommend we approve this. For the sake of 60cm, I think it would be unsympathetic and unhelpful to someone who has helped approve the route into the area.” And he added: “Who decides what is normal for heights? Is it the planning inspectorate?”

Labour Coun Yasser Iqbal also supported approval for the fence. He said the Nelson area committee had spoken quite a lot about it. He also asked if any complaints had been received about the fence.

Mr Watson was not aware of any complaints. But he added: “The government sets out what is normal about the front and backs of houses. The photos show there is quite a difference between the fence heights and other boundaries.”

Conservative Coun Sarah Cockburn-Price recommended refusal.

She said: “Retrospective planning applications usually come to this committee because something is wrong. The retaining wall here is already quite substantial before we even get to the wooden fence and concrete posts.

“The 60cm difference in the height of this fence compared with approved heights is significant for small gardens. This house has already ‘grown’ right up to its neighbour with a garage. So we have an oversized house and now this fence.

She added: “A hedge could be less over-bearing. This fence creates a sterile, bleak environment. It will not become a nature corridor. It is not in scale or in harmony with the surroundings.”

Lib-Dem Coun David Whipp said he would vote in keeping with guidelines and recommended refusal.

A vote then followed and councillors officially refused the application.

A few weeks ago, a different application for a terraced house dormer loft extension in a Nelson conservation area was sent by the Nelson committee to the Policy & Resources Committee, again recommending approval against official planning policy.

In that case, Coun Cockburn-Price said the planned loft extension would look like a ‘mad hat’. The issue prompted a wider discussion about the architectural value of traditional Lancashire terraced houses, conservation areas, overcrowded homes and the costs and availability of new homes in Pendle.