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Pro Bono Planning Success for Car-Free Couple

on Thursday, 26 May 2022.

A Birmingham couple with four children made the news in recent weeks after they saved thousands of pounds by going car-free.

On 25 May 2022, they received a further boost to their car-free lifestyle - the news that the Planning Inspectorate had granted their appeal against the refusal of planning permission to install a bike store.

After Birmingham City Council refused their application to place a modest, purpose built cycle store outside their 3 bed terraced home, Ruth and Tom sought support from local cycling group Push Bikes. Push Bikes board member Shivaji Shiva is a Partner at national law firm VWV and he agreed that the decision did not feel right:

"The reasoning was somewhat muddled and the result felt out of step with both planning policies and the Council's clear commitment to enabling residents who wish to choose active travel - and get around on foot or by cycle."

With Shivaji's help, the couple secured pro bono support from planning expert Christopher Allingham who helped them prepare and file an appeal in March this year.

The Planning Inspector concluded that:

  • the proposed store would not detract from the appearance of the street
  • it would not conflict with the relevant development plans or the wider planning policy framework
  • approval of the store would not set a harmful precedent

In doing so, the Inspector observed that the visual impact of the proposed 'small hut like structure' was diminished by the screening effect of existing greenery and parked cars, noting:

"At my site visit I saw that, whilst structures in front of principal elevations of the terrace are on the whole uncommon, most of its driveways play host to parked cars, wheelie bins and similar paraphernalia. Within this immediate context … the proposed development would not look incongruous."

Local residents considering giving up a car in favour of cycling will welcome this recognition that a modest cycle store may well have less impact on visual amenity than we generally accept from cars and other urban clutter.  It is significant that the Inspector considered the impact of parked cars and other moveable features, such as wheelie bins, as material in determining whether the proposed cycle store would be unacceptably obtrusive in the streetscape.

Many Council members and officers will welcome the Planning Inspectorate's decision as one which helps smooth the way for the Planning authority to approve the installation of appropriately designed and unobtrusive cycle stores. This is an important step in enabling residents to make the shift to cycling and active travel which the Council's policies encourage - and the imperatives of Climate change demand.

Meanwhile, Ruth and Tom look forward to getting the cycle store into position - and getting out on their bikes with their family and friends.

Ruth Cumming said:

"The inspector’s comments are amazing! So pleased that he agrees with us. 

"We are very grateful to Chris for his work. And to Shivaji too for making the connection at work and helping us get the support. It’s been a real group effort!"

The Planning Inspectorate's decision can be found here.

For information on how we can assist with planning law or property development issues, please contact David Bird, who leads the Planning and Pipelines teams, on 07500 838 556.

For a copy of the Grounds for Appeal, which include a review of relevant planning policies, or information on the implications of this case for individuals, organisations or individuals promoting active travel, please contact Shivaji Shiva in our Charities team on 07788 313 298, or complete the form below.

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