Decking vs Veranda - COMPLAINT - HELP!

25 Aug 2020
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United Kingdom
Hi there -

I am hoping someone can help. I recently extended pre-existing decking at the rear of my property. My house is built on a heavily sloping hill which declines in gradient as you approach the rear. As a result, there is a c.1.1m drop when you open the back door. I researched online and saw that for uneven surfaces, the ground level is the highest part of the surface of the ground next to the building. As a consequence, the decking fell under permitted development. The neighbours complained and enforcement paid a visit. I was not home so they viewed the decking from the neighbours house. They subsequently sent a letter to say it requires PP as it is above 0.3m. I wrote back stating the definition of ground level for uneven surfaces meant that it was not above ground level and kindly asked them to provide case law evidence if, for some reason, their interpretation of ground level differed from government guidelines. The enforcement officer then wrote back and said there was some 'confusion' and it was not decking, it is a veranda and they do not have permitted development rights.

My mind is now blown as the first letter from enforcement very clearly said it was decking and required PP due to the height. Now, when I have pointed out it is PD, he has changed his tune to ensure it does not fall under permitted development. Surely, this is nonsense?! I am now confused and wondering if I can tell him to stop making up rules or if I need to remain calm and politely point out it is not a veranda?

Given he has contradicted himself does this strengthen my case if I do receive an enforcement later down the line? Can anyone provide the definition for decking vs veranda? My structure does not have a roof which is what I can see constitutes a veranda. It does have a hand rail for safety given the steep drop.

Sorry this is long - I am just very confused with how best to deal with this. As a side, I will not be drawn into applying for PP as the neighbours will complain (they already have enforcement on speed dial) and it will get rejected.
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Surely a veranda has to have a roof. Does your decking have a roof?
There are some posts on here about decking and enforcement notices like this, and, planning authorities ignoring the guidance.
One poster contested it and after about a year, won.
If it is decking, follow the appeal process.
Don't apply for planning. State its permitted development, and, its not a veranda and contest it
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A veranda is described within the technical document as

"A veranda is understood to be a gallery, platform, or balcony, usually roofed and often partly enclosed, extending along the outside of a building at ground level."

So you need to do a Google and dictionary search to confirm that your deck is not in fact more like a veranda - don't concentrate on the roof, but on other features - the setting, the width across the house, handrails etc. Then you may know what the officer's thinking may be.

Then you need to actually ask the officer why they think it is a veranda, and not a deck. Just that simple sentence, let them explain to you not you interpret what they may or may not be thinking.

You may then decide what the situation is and whether you or the officer is correct.

If you are correct, then put them on the back foot. Lodge a formal complaint with the council about the officer's conduct - not about the planning or enforcement issues (you need to keep them well out of it), but about how the officer has gone about his job. You need to limit the complaint to his actions and specifically how this has made you feel.
  • How you have been told one thing, and then its completely reversed.
  • How you have had little empathy from the officer.
  • How you have had stress, worry and anxiety purely based on this flip flopping.
  • How this is negatively affecting you and your family.
  • How the officer has not communicated things to you in a human, sympathetic way.
  • How you feel that they are taking sides with these sudden changes of mind.
Do not worry that a complaint of this nature will affect any enforcement action negatively, it will not - it's the opposite it makes them much more aware of scrutiny.
Thanks all for your advice.

Given he stated in his original email that it is decking - could I just go back to him and say there is no confusion; in your original email you clearly state that it is decking? And then leave him to explain why he did this?

I am worried if I ask him for a definition he will manipulate it to ensure that it fits with my structure?
You can ask him what you like, and he can tell you what he likes.

But if he thinks its a veranda as he has stated, then he will proceed on that basis - typically to coerce you to apply for planning permission, which will then be typically rejected on the basis of neighbour impact, and then you are bone-fide in breach of planning regulations.

Or you can just sit and wait and let it go through the numerous letters and threats and see if it gets enforced.

Or you can be proactive, and illustrate that you wont be taking any ****off them.
Yes - I definitely will take the proactive approach and plan to raise a complaint as there are other issues with the enforcement officers' conduct which have been unacceptable.

My question is whether asking for the defintion of veranda opens up a new can of worms as I fear he will choose a definition based on what best suits my structure. Or should I simply stand firm and say it is decking (as clearly stated in his original correspondence) and let him come back with why he thinks it is?

Really helpful advice on the complaint - will definitely use that format!
My question is whether asking for the defintion of veranda opens up a new can of worms as I fear he will choose a definition based on what best suits my structure.
No, you are not asking for a definition - he can't define it as it's been defined elsewhere.

What you are asking him is why he thinks it a veranda and not a deck. What features exist to make this a veranda and not a deck, and if you can what reference or precedent is he using to form his opinion.

Bear in mind that at this stage, all it is is an opinion of this one person. It's likely not gone to his manager or team nor to any wider group, and certainly not to any of the council's legal advisers. It's just his opinion, and that's all it can be at this stage.

What you want to do is find out why he has formed this and then you can check the validity of it.
So, an update. I emailed the planning department to ask for a definition of verandah and decking and they replied with this;

  • Decking - a timber platform or terrace attached to a house or other building, level with the ground floor
  • Verandah - a roofed platform along the outside of a house, level with the ground floor
The question now is what to do with this information. Should I respond to the officer and highlight his incompetence or shall I skip that and go straight to raising a complaint?

Do you think there is anything else he can come up with to convince me it's not a permitted development?!
Haha! Should I go back to him with the council's definition or just raise a complaint?
If you are in receipt of a Planning Contravention Notice then you still have to address it.
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Latest update -

I emailed the enforcement officer with the definition of verandah and stated that clearly my structure does not fall under the description. They then emailed back and said it was actually a raised platform and if I did not give them permission to come and take measurements they would exercise their rights and enter anyway. This is very confusing as in their first email to me they stated they were able to take photographs and measurements from the neighbours house and that I was in breach of planning. This guy is clearly making it up as he goes along. I have now raised a complaint with the council as it seems really clear he is colluding with the neighbours. I stated in the complaint I'm happy to let someone in but not the person I'm dealing with due to their obvious bias. Also, I am a vulnerable person and were going through a pandemic, do they really have rights to enter now??

Any idea on where I should go from here? Also, given this officer has flip flopped a million times, how likely is it that the council will issue enforcement procedures?!

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