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House owner to challenge conversion enforcement notice in High Court

A house owner, who was served an enforcement notice by the London Borough of Hackney after allegedly converting a house in Stamford Hill into a synagogue, has been granted permission to challenge a planning inspector's decision to uphold the notice in the High Court. 30 Nov 2012

Satmar Ltd had appealed an enforcement notice issued in July 2011 by Hackney Council after it had extended and converted a house into a synagogue without planning permission. The planning inspector rejected (13-page – 177KB PDF) the appeal and upheld the notice, saying that the alleged change of use had caused the loss of a dwellinghouse in an area where there was a proven need for housing.

Satmar Ltd had argued that when the enforcement notice was issued it was too late for the Council to take action. It said that the property had been used as a synagogue from around 1948 and that the Council had therefore failed to issue the notice within ten years of the date of breach.

The inspector found that the synagogue had opened in May or June 2007, a few months after Satmar Ltd took over the house, and that prior to this the building had had a "sole primary use" as a dwellinghouse. The Council had therefore been within the ten year time limit for issuing an enforcement notice.

The inspector also said that, although she accepted the need for a place of worship in the area, the "demographic and anecdotal evidence" indicated that the need for housing in the area was greater than that for a synagogue at the site of the property.

Satmar Ltd subsequently applied for permission for judicial review of the inspector's decision. High Court Judge Mr Justice Eady has now granted permission and the case will be heard in the High Court according to a Planning Magazine report.