A decision to approve a garden room branded “intimidating” by neighbours could end up in the courts after protesters warned they are ready to take legal action.
East Lothian councillors agreed to grant retrospective planning permission for the rectangular wooden room, built at the bottom of a garden in Lairds Crescent, in Haddington, at a virtual meeting today.
However, they were warned that decision could be brought before a judicial review amid claims the building breached neighbours’ privacy and policies had not been followed.
Kate Kasprowicz, who made a statement for objectors and whose home is overlooked by the new structure, said the privacy and quality of life of others on the housing estate had not been considered relevant by planners.
She told the committee: “We retain the right to take this to a judicial review if it is approved.”
Homeowner Craig Smith told a virtual meeting of the council’s planning committee he had been unaware permission was needed for the three-metre high room.
Planners recommended councillors approve the planning application despite receiving 13 objections from residents.
A report to the committee says among the objections raised were claims “the structure is of a size that will be overbearing and cause intimidation of surrounding properties.”
Doreen Copeland, Ms Kasprowicz’s partner, said the garden room’s appearance in the garden next to theirs had been a shock.
She said: “There are 13 objectors, people living in this development are quite outraged by it.
“They are outraged at the sheer dominance of its, outraged there was no planning permission.”
Ms Copeland described the garden room as a “family room on stilts” pointing out three steps had been built up to a platform it rested on allowing anyone standing on it to look into their garden.
Councillor John McMillan, ward member Haddington and Lammermuir, called in the application after officers recommended it for approval for a committee decision.
Mr McMillan said he had disagreed with one paragraph included in the planning officer’s report on the application more than anything he had seen in more than 10 years on the committee.
Planners had said of the garden room: “It does not appear as a harmfully dominant, overbearing, intrusive or incongruous feature within the rear garden of the house.”
Mr McMillan said: “It is dominating and it has an overbearing sense to me. In my view it is incongruous.”
Planning convenor Norman Hampshire recognised that “ideally” the garden room should have been built lower into the ground to reduce its height in the sloping garden.
However, he acknowledged that was an expensive option.
Applicant Mr Smith also applied for permission to increase the height of the fence between his home and the property of Ms Copeland and Ms Kasprowic from 1.5 metres to 1.8 metres to “protect their privacy”.
Councillor Hampshire told committee members: “The structure won’t have significant overlooking in the neighbours property if the fence is increased.”
He urged members to support the planning application for the garden room with an increased height in the fence.
The committee voted to approve the application by eight votes to three.