Monday, 15 August 2016
Section 215 Notice - House painting
Readers may have seen the case of the red-and-white striped house in London reported in the papers. A section 215 notice was served in respect of the painting of the house, requiring it to be repainted plain white. This was appealed to the magistrates court under section 217, who upheld the notice. A further appeal from there to the Crown Court was dismissed by Judge Johnson on 12 July - Lisle-Mainwaring v Kensington and Chelsea RLBC.
The appellant contended that section 215, which is normally used to require the tidying up of rubbish and detritus on unkempt open land, could not be used for this purpose. However, there are certainly cases where the section has been used in situations where it is alleged that the amenity of the area is adversely affected by the condition of a building. The amenity of an area would not normally be adversely affected by the external decoration of a building, but this was a house in a conservation area, and painting the house in red-and-white vertical stripes was unsightly. The judge therefore held that the notice had been properly served under section 215 and should be upheld.
The case arose out of a long-running battle with neighbours over planning permission. In March 2015, the appellant (apparently to spite her neighbours) ordered her contractor to repaint the front of her property with red-and-white stripes. The neighbours complained to the LPA, who responded to these complaints by issuing a section 215 notice which required the appellant to "to remedy the condition of the land" by repainting the house white.
It was the appellant’s submission that a section 215 notice can be used only to require the repair of a property in disrepair which is adversely affecting the amenity of the area. She contended that amenity is adversely affected only in a case that raises issues of repair and maintenance. Therefore, she argued, mere painting of the building did not affect "the condition of land" within section 215.
In dismissing the appeal Judge Johnson held that "amenity" is a broad concept, not defined by the section. It is a question of judgement on the part of the LPA, taking a broad view of the condition of the site, the impact that this has on the surrounding area and also having regard to the scope of the council’s powers under section 215. (See Berg v. Salford City Council  EWHC 2599 (Admin).) The "condition of land" refers to the current state of the land, and a section 215 notice can be used to require works going beyond mere maintenance, so as to remedy the appearance of the land. (See also Allsop v Derbyshire Dales DC  EWHC 3562 (Admin).) Something that affects visual amenity is enough to justify issuing a section 215 notice.
Painting the outside of a building would not in the ordinary way adversely affect amenity. However, one of the key features of the conservation area in which the subject property was situated was its visual integrity, with only a limited range of neutral colours on painted buildings. Painting the property in garish stripes was disruptive of the townscape and harmed the uniformity of buildings within the conservation area, adversely affecting amenity. The painting was unsightly, and section 215 supplied an appropriate means of tackling the unsightly condition of land or buildings.
The appellant was ordered to repaint the property white within 28 days of this judgment.
© MARTIN H GOODALL