Owner to remove obtrusive air conditioning units

10th February 2020

The owner of a property in the Batchworth Heath Conservation Area (BHCA) has been required to remove two air conditioning units from the house after they were erected without the benefit of planning permission. 

The air conditioning units had been erected at an elevated height, and front White Hill and the ancient Heath a focal point of the Batchworth Heath Conservation Area.  

After a complaint to the Council and initial investigation, an enforcement notice was served, requiring the complete removal of the units fronting the Heath, as their installation had resulted in an obtrusive and incongruous form of development which failed to preserve the character and appearance of the Batchworth Heath Conservation Area. 

The enforcement notice was appealed by the owner.  However, the Planning Inspectorate dismissed the appeal adding the following: “I find that the enforcement notice correctly asserts that the air conditioning units, due to their siting, colour and utilitarian appearance, resulting in an obtrusive and incongruous form of development which harms the character and appearance of the BHCA. 

“There has been a failure to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of that conservation area. I attach considerable importance and weight to this matter given my statutory duty under section 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. The significance of the designated heritage asset – the conservation area – has been diluted.” 

The owner has been advised that the units are required to be permanently removed within two months of the appeal decision. 

It should be noted that the enforcement notice did not seek the removal of all units serving the house, noting that an air conditioning unit on the other side elevation, did not have a harmful impact on the conservation area due to its limited visibility. 

Leader of the Council, Cllr Sara Bedford, said: “This is a prime example where an owner has tried to sidestep the planning process and undertaken unacceptable works. If left unenforced by the Council, this would have led to the gradual deterioration of the character of the Batchworth Heath Conservation Area, one of many special areas within Three Rivers. Owners need to check which works require planning permission by asking the Council’s Planning department who provide a free Duty Planner Service for household developments.”