Striped Strife

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...painting the town(house) red (and white)

A townhouse in one of the swankier locales of West London has been at the centre of a paint-based palaver, with the ruling in an ongoing court case having just been reached. Mark Underhill, Operational Accounts Manager in Simpson Millar’s Conveyancing Department, has the details.

Red And White Stripes

Three-storey townhouses in the upmarket borough of Kensington and Chelsea are a common sight, like stripy beach huts on a windswept shoreline. What are less common are three-storey townhouses that share the same colour scheme as those stalwart protectors of Great British modesty.

In fact, so rare is the occasion of a red and white-striped townhouse on the prohibitively priced pavements of Kensington that when one does appear, all hell breaks loose.

The hero/villain of the piece – depending upon your outlook – is the expensively named Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring, a property developer who riled the neighbours in 2015 when she had the front of her property repainted. Looking like one of Peter Crouch’s Stoke City shirts hung out to dry, the new paint job was impossible not to see, uniting the residents of South End, Kensington, in their hatred of it and prompting the local authority to take action.

Using the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, notice was served for the house’s front elevation to be repainted within 28 days. Refusing to bow to the council’s demands, Ms Lisle-Mainwaring appealed the order, leading to a day of reckoning at Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court. After they ruled against her, the property developer appealed, this time taking her fight to Isleworth Crown Court. Once again, she was sent packing, this time with a £17,390 flea in her ear for the council’s costs.

Planning Permission Knockback

But Ms Lisle-Mainwaring was no stranger to court action. Immediately prior to commissioning a paint scheme more suited to a stick of Blackpool rock, she had been refused planning permission to knock the townhouse down and rebuild a new residence with a two-storey basement; a proposal that also managed to unite the neighbourhood in their opposition. She denied there was any connection between the timing of the repaint and that of her neighbours’ objections to her plan.

So-called mega-basements have become something of an anathema for the inhabitants of West London’s more exclusive postcodes, raising the ire of residents because of the disruption they cause. Poodle-permed pomp-rock performer, Brian May, has gone so far as to describe his own Kensington enclave as having become a “hellhole” due to the noise, mess and traffic problems the work increasing the sale value of already premium properties creates.

With her plans to demolish and rebuild the townhouse refused, due to the council’s tight restrictions on basement developments of more than one storey, Ms Lisle-Mainwaring challenged the decision but failed to get it overturned.

Judicial Review At The High Court

If at first you don’t succeed, the old saying goes, try, try again; which is what the Switzerland-dwelling property developer did. Following her previous two failures in getting the order to repaint the stripy townhouse dismissed, she sought a judicial review at the High Court in London.

Mr Justice Gilbert, who presided over the case, questioned the council’s decision to issue the notice under section 215 of Town and Country Planning Act, which (through section 216) criminalises those who fail to comply:

If any owner or occupier of the land on whom the notice was served fails to take steps required by the notice within the period specified […] he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine.

The Judge said:

“To allow a local planning authority (LPA) to use section 215 to deal with a question of aesthetics, as opposed to disrepair or dilapidation, falls outside the intention and spirit of Planning Code.”

He went on to reason that the council had the scope to order the repaint under other sections of the Act, chiefly Section 102, where compensation would be paid to her and no criminal liability would be imposed if she failed to “remove that which had been permitted by law to apply”.

As painting her own property – or paying someone else to do it – was deemed lawful, the order was quashed, allowing the stripes to remain.

Mark comments:

“The Crown Court hearing prior to this ruling had made capital of the belief Ms Lisle-Mainwaring had ‘painted the house in stripes as a matter of pique’. The High Court Judge, Mr Justice Gilbart, was right to challenge this finding, affirming that regardless of the property owner’s motives, the particular section (215) of the Planning Act does not entitle the local authority to address them, reinforcing the point that the section doesn’t apply any differently were the ‘garish’ colour scheme either a result of eccentricity or spite.”

“The fact that this whole saga may or may not have stemmed from the original objections to the redevelopment of the property, highlights the importance of getting the proper searches done before spending a considerable sum on buying a house.”

“In this case, Ms Lisle-Mainwaring might’ve discovered beforehand that the local authority had tightened its regulations with regards to building mega-basements and taken her millions elsewhere.”

“In more general terms, the right searches and surveys will ensure you are made aware of any restrictions which may affect your plans for a property, along with planning decisions in the area that might sway your decision to buy.”

“An experienced conveyancing solicitor is crucial to ensure you don’t rush into something you later regret. If you are thinking of buying a property, stripy or otherwise, get in touch with Simpson Millar’s conveyancing team and find out how we can help you.”

Written by Mark Underhill.

For more information on conveyancing and the services offered by Simpson Millar, please call:

0808 129 3304

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