Home sweet home! Candy-cane stripes can stay, says High Court

26 April 2017

Ruling gives councils food-for-thought on issuing S215 notices

Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring hit the headlines a few years ago after painting her townhouse in central London candy-cane stripes. Consequently, her neighbours saw red and relations with RBKC soured, but it seems that this fight is now finally over as Mr Justice Gilbart ruled that the property developer can ignore the planning authority’s order to repaint the property.

In January 2016, RBKC served her with a S215 notice under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, requiring her to repaint “all external paintwork located on the front elevation white” within 28 days.

After failed appeals to magistrates and Isleworth crown court last year, Lisle-Mainwaring launched judicial review action at the high court in London and the judge has now ruled in her favour, bringing her sweet success after a long and drawn out battle.

One issue was whether a notice served under section 215 of the 1990 act “may be used when the complaint is that the planning authority considers that the choice of painting scheme harms amenity” and the judge ruled that using section 215 notices “to deal with questions of aesthetics, as opposed to disrepair or dilapidation, falls outside the intention and spirit of the planning code”.

The judge is of the view that it is an improper use of section 215 to use it to alter a lawful painting scheme, when there is no suggestion that there is any want of maintenance or repair in the land. In paragraph 36 of the judgment he states “it would be absurd to imagine using S215 where the dispute is about the choice of colour scheme or their appearance rather than the condition of the fabric”.

Homeowners do usually have a right to paint their houses any colour they like, under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, as long as the property is not a listed building and no Article 4s are in place. Section 215 notices provide council's with the power, in certain circumstances, to take steps requiring land to be cleaned up when its condition “adversely affects the amenity of the area”.

Given this decision, it is now very clear that S215 notices should only be used by Council’s where maintenance and repair in the land is required which harms amenity, and aesthetics falls outside of the S215’s remit.