Garden folly wins Brighton and Hove councillors’ approval

A gothic folly – described as “bonkers” – has been granted planning permission by Brighton and Hove councillors.

They gave the go ahead for the castle-themed walls in the back garden of a home in Valley Drive, Brighton, despite objections from neighbours.

The walls are intended to protect a raised patio at the rear top of a steeply sloping back garden but neighbours and ward councillors said that they were worried about “overlooking” and loss of privacy.

Members of Brighton and Hove City Council were told that the walls – in the style of a mediaeval folly with castle-inspired details – would not be much higher than the existing level of the garden.

Independent councillor Tony Janio said: “It’s bonkers! I love it.”

He voted for the scheme when the council’s Planning Committee met last Wednesday (9 June).

The committee was told that, after neighbours objected, the applicant Paul Byrne offered to reduce the height and width of the terrace.

Green councillor Steve Davis, who represents Westdene ward, spoke on behalf of neighbours and said that he hoped for conciliation between them in the future.

Councillor Davis said: “Residents should never feel the planning process has no room to listen to them.

“We hope you will take our residents’ concerns on board and either a compromise could be made or reassurance given that might mitigate their most serious concerns.”

He said that Valley Drive was a beautiful verdant area where residents valued peace and green space in their gardens.

A building at the back of the steep gardens created a risk of overlooking and would visually dominate the neighbours’ views, he said.

Councillor Davis said that neighbours were concerned that the planted screens of yew and birch trees would not be enough to reduce overlooking.

He asked for a proposed planting plan to be strengthened so that there would be “more robust screening”.

Mr Byrne’s planning agent, Colm McKee, of CMK Planning, said that some objectors’ comments were “disingenuous” and not planning-related.

He said that many were from the same household, although the council’s website redacts commenters’ details so the public cannot tell who objects and where they live.

One comment suggested that the terrace might be used as a house bar, with loudspeakers, or as a party venue, with increased traffic resulting from people coming down the road to look at the folly.

Mr McKee said that other homes in the area had terraced gardens – and that one neighbour’s summer house at the back of their garden was higher than the proposed folly.

He said: “A number of comments were received in relation to Valley Drive being a family area. This is entirely correct.

“For the avoidance of doubt, this is the applicant’s family home and it is within the applicant’s domestic curtilage.”

Mr McKee said that Mr Byrne and his husband James Drain valued their privacy just as much as their neighbours.

Councillor Steve Davis

Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh asked why the proposal needed planning permission and why it had been brought before the committee at all.

Planning manager Nicola Hurley said that planning permission was needed because of the excavation and build up of ground levels – and it was before councillors because of the number of objections.

Conservative councillor Carol Theobald said: “It’s the first time I’ve had a folly on the Planning Committee. You usually see them in large gardens at stately homes.

“I can’t see that this can do much harm, especially as there is tree planting and there are trees there already. It’s a bit of fun.”

Green councillor Sue Shanks said: “I am a bit concerned that we end up in this committee, which we have done before with previous applications, arbitrating between neighbours.

“It seems ridiculous that there are two or three people objecting because they live next door and don’t want someone to do it. Be sensible and talk to your neighbours if you’re going to build something.”

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