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Richard Spector: “Stripy London townhouse at centre of contention soon to be knocked down”

After a long, and often bemusing, legal battle, the women who painted her London townhouse in red and white stripes will be allowed to rebuild the property, reports Richard Spector, Managing Partner at ELS Legal.

Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring, a property developer, first sought to demolish the Kensington home in March 2015.

She planned to replace the multi-million pound property – which is currently used for storage – with a residential building.

The application was opposed, and in an alleged fit of spite (which she denies), she painted the house in candy red and white stripes in stark contrast to her terraced neighbours’ more traditional façades.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea served her with a 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.

“The condition and appearance of the property, particularly the red and white painted stripes on the front elevation, is incongruous with the streetscape of South End and the local area,” it said in its notice.

Subsequent appeals were denied by both the magistrates and Isleworth Crown Court, but the case eventually made its way up to the High Court in London.

In April this year, the Court ruled in Miss Lisle-Mainwaring’s favour and quashed the notice.

One turning point 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”.

Mr Justice Gilbart, presiding over the case, said the painting of the house had been “entirely lawful”.

“Is it proper to use a section 215 notice where the complaint is not lack of maintenance or repair, but of aesthetics?” he questioned the council.

He ruled that using section 215 “to deal with questions of aesthetics, as opposed to disrepair or dilapidation, falls outside the intention and spirit of the planning code”.

During the same period, Miss Lisle-Mainwaring was taking steps to have a planning inspector assess the property for permission to build the new development.

According to Get West London, a neighbour opposed the inspector’s decision, telling the High Court that the inspector failed to have proper regard to the material consideration of a possible reversion of the property to office use.

Mrs Justice Lang agreed with the neighbour in October 2016.

But a subsequent appeal hearing in September this year reversed the inspector’s decision, giving Miss Lisle-Mainwaring full right to demolish and rebuild the property.

Lord Justice Lindblom said that there was “ample evidence demonstrating that it would make no sense, economically or commercially, to resume office use and Ms Lisle-Mainwaring had no intention of doing so”.

“In the circumstances, no rational decision-maker in the inspector’s position could have concluded that the prospect was a material consideration.”

This was a “perfectly unexceptional case,” Justice Lindblom concluded.

About Richard Spector: Managing Partner Richard specialises in property transactions and commercial litigation. Richard has acted in a number of high-profile cases and was heavily involved in the litigation that arose from the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Richard has been involved in a number of cross-border litigation cases and recently acted successfully for the Claimants in Harlequin Property (SVG) Ltd & Anr v Wilkins Kennedy, listed in the Lawyer’s top 20 cases of 2016.

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Richard Spector

Richard is a Partner in the litigation department. Richard specialises in commercial litigation across a number of sectors and often involving international elements to the dispute. Richard has acted in a number of high profile cases and was heavily involved in the litigation that arose from the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

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