A disabled Edinburgh resident has won the right to keep a driveway formed in their front garden without planning permission after the council initially ruled it amounted to a ‘loss of green space’.
Councillors on the planning appeals committee overturned officers’ decision to refuse the parking space application submitted after works had already been completed.
However, not all supported the move, with one councillor saying it was ‘appalling’ to have proceeded without permission and that making an exception could ‘give the green light to people to start digging up gardens willy nilly’.
Applicant Alison Campbell was told the monoblock driveway, built in front of her ground floor flat on Magdalene Drive in Brunstane, was an ‘overly dominant’ feature taking up 85% of the garden, exceeding the maximum 25% set out in the council’s guidance for householders.
Refusing retrospective permission for the parking space in January, council officers said: “The loss of the green space begins to undermine this characteristic and starts to impact on the amenity of the neighbourhood.”
They added: “There should be only one parking space per property and the application is for two spaces.”
But soon after Ms Campbell lodged an appeal and argued parking is “problematic in the area” and pointed out that no objections were made regarding the works.
She added: “Creating an additional space is a benefit not a detriment. I’m currently a blue badge holder with deteriorating health.
“I would also be unable to maintain or use a large garden set to grass, the patio area ensures I have an area that I can use outdoors which provides space for mobility aides.”
The application went before the Local Review Body on Wednesday, June 8, and members were split over whether to uphold the refusal.
SNP councillor David Key said: “My initial view is that it’s appalling that someone’s just gone ahead and done the work without asking the question, they’ve removed a big piece of green space and replaced it with a bit of concrete and it’s just absolutely rotten in my view.”
He said whilst understanding the “need to have easy access” there are “other ways of doing it”.
“They could have applied for a disabled parking space outside the house, applied for a dropped kerb to get a wheelchair onto the pavement and into the drive or the garden.
“If we say ‘dig up your monoblock and replace it with turf, how do we go about enforcing that? Is it enforcable? I’ve no idea. So I’m not happy with this at all in any respect.”
Cllr Key added approving plans would “give a green light to people who live around the area or elsewhere to just start digging up gardens willy nilly”.
Taking the opposite view, Liberal Democrat councillor Hal Osler said the applicant had taken “care and consideration to the environment” when having the driveway constructed.
The Greens’ Chas Booth said he could see “both sides of the argument” but voted against overturning the original decision, whilst suggesting a new application which complies with planning rules would be “sympathetically regarded”.
He said: “I think life for disabled people is difficult enough without us making it more difficult and clearly they’ve done this in order to show that they can improve access to their site.
“I think it’s frustrating that we can’t approve an alternative application that does comply with our guidance because that might be my prefererable way forward.”
Convener and Conservative councillor Jo Mowat supported overturning the ruling ‘on equalities grounds’ and said enforcing the refusal would require the council to ‘take a digger in’, adding that could be ‘quite distressing’.
“Would that be inappropriate?,” she asked. “That’s the ultimate sanction if we uphold the officers refusal here today, that we’d have to instruct enforcement action as well, or the council would.”
Upon going to a vote, members were split as SNP and Greens voted to uphold the initial ruling and Tory and Lib Dems moved to grant planning permission.
With the casting vote, Cllr Mowat overturned officers’ refusal.