In a cautionary tale for property developers, a company that slapped concrete render and white paint onto a red brick townhouse in a conservation area faced having to knock down two of the building’s external walls following a High Court ruling.
The company bought the property with a view to renovation and resale and carried out the rendering and painting work without planning consent. The local authority’s response was to serve the company with an enforcement notice, requiring it to remove the rendering in its entirety and to repair any damage that that process caused to the building's fabric.
The company objected that removing the rendering would cause irreparable harm to the underlying brickwork. It would have no option but to demolish and rebuild the house's front and rear walls. That was said to amount to far more than mere repair. The council, however, launched a prosecution and the company was convicted of failing to comply with the notice.
In challenging the conviction, the company argued that it had done all it could reasonably have been expected to do in order to comply with the notice. In rejecting the appeal, however, the Court noted that the company and its managing director had been well aware of what they had done to the walls and that removing the rendering and replacement of the brickwork might be necessary.
It was entirely possible for them to comply with the notice, in that a maximum of two external walls would have to be rebuilt, rather than the entire building having to be brought down. Even if demolishing the walls was required to restore the property to its former condition, such works could still be viewed as repairs.