Funny fake planning notices

Artist/prankster Phil Lucas puts up fake "planning notices" around Brighton, England, announcing his plans to radically improve the cityscape and inviting people to comment via the local government's planning authority.

I live in Hackney, which boasts England's "worst performing planning authority" (as one MP recently put it in Parliament), so I sympathise with these shenanigans. I've been through multiple planning petitions for permission to put a glass box on my disused balcony to grow plants in and use as a dining room in warm months, and have been turned down because it would "disrupt the street-scene" on my manky, dogshit-strewn, tumbling-down road in east London.

Planning Notices in Brighton (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. Ours is pretty awful, too.  We’re supposed to draw up a landscape plan and apply for permission before putting plants in our yards.

    I was particularly shocked to see that, after the recent riots, local councils in the UK still refused to allow businesses to mount roll down metal shutters like they have on every other building on the continent of Europe because it would create a negative impression.  Apparently a more negative impression than burning buildings full of looters.

    1. Ok so I get why local authorities don’t want people to have complete free reign over their property, as I’m sure we can all imagine the consequences (it only takes one inconsiderate boob to ruin a community), but plants? Man that shit is fucked up.

      1. It’s all about income. Remember the several lengthy threads about cities that put up red light cameras and then shortened the yellow light times? Anything that starts out as a safety regulation will eventually end up as an abused cash cow.

        I should point out that the entire landscape plan that I submitted was entirely composed of obscure botanical specimens that nobody could have purchased or even likely looked up without going to a specialist horticultural library. And certainly none of them would have survived a week in the desert. So their review of my landscape plan consisted of cashing my check.

        1.  Antinous, you obviously failed to make the appropriate campaign contributions in advance.

          The whole point of planning and zoning laws is to make sure that the children of local politicians are not unduly burdened by college debt.

          1. Our local politicians don’t breed. The lhasa apso might need a trip to the doggie spa, though.

      2. I’ve lived in both extremes. When I lived in Columbia, MD, which is a private city (yes, you read that right, the entire city is owned by a corporation), when I closed on my townhome I received three telephone book sized binders of regulations. There was one for the city regulations. One for the village regulations. The third was for the townhouse regulations. There were rules about where and how you could put in skylights, the kinds of vehicles you could park in front of your home, the size of the fence around a pool, the colors and sizes that you could build a deck, the kinds of siding that were permissible. The result of this was that it was one of the few areas I lived where there were almost no additions to any of the homes.  To add an addition required so many hoops to jump through, most people found it easier to move to a larger house. The values of the neighborhoods were very stable. However, the town paper was just hilarious to read, with every new sign and light causing a major discussion in letters to the editor. Neighbors got into the most tremendous fights about minor rule violations. It was a beautiful, homogenous exterior of a place to live with a lot of nastiness seething underneath.

        After living there, I moved to Wilmington, NC. When I closed on my house in a golf course community I received the rules for the community – one piece of paper. It is the only place I have lived where there was a junk yard and a trailer park next to such an exclusive community. There wasn’t anything you could do if your neighbor did something stupid to their property that affected you, but for the most part I didn’t see much of that kind of thing. People segregated themselves into the communities that were right for them – the people who wanted to park work trucks in front of their homes didn’t live in the communities where the retirees devoted their lives to their perfect lawns. There were very few community resources there; if you want to run a class, for example,  you had to start your own small business instead of having a community center that would advertise and run it for you. 

        Both places were nice to live. Wilmington was a lot of fun but sometimes it felt too much like everyone had to be out for themselves. Columbia had tons of parks and community gyms and places to take classes, but to me it felt oppressive that everyone was so fixated on the rules.

        1. Yeah, I used to live in Wilmywood as well and I know what you mean – if you owned property (I never did but I had friends who did) and you wanted to do something usually it was as easy as just submitting a form.  There was a bit of a kerflufle about there being too many bars downtown (basically bars & restaurants revitalized the downtown area and once it was revitalized the people who moved down there/moved other businesses in didn’t like that there were so many bars around) but it never actually *went* anywhere beyond the complaining stage.

          1. I felt it was a big problem in the historic district. I would have liked to have seen more regulations on what people could do to historic properties, but the developers had such a hold on the town council that they never could make regulations on the downtown stick.

    2. I live in a county that has county-wide zoning laws.  In theory there are all sorts of things I have to have permission for.  In practice, in the rural parts we usually gleefully ignore the zoning laws.  Now, if you’re hiring someone to put in a septic tank you’re going to have to pay attention, as well as anything else that you’ll be hiring a contractor for, and you’ll be in a world of hurt if you try to build improvements without having your property reassessed, but other than that, don’t be a dick and you don’t have to worry about it.  

      Now, the town closest to me is a different story. Despite being the home of the first geodesic dome home, owned by none other than Buckminster Fuller, I kinda doubt you could build one there without going through a lot of legal hoops.

      Once in a while people get their panties in a bunch when they get told they can’t keep old tires on their property, and so on.  People forget that in the 19th century, people here were still dying of malaria.  In Illinois.  And malaria is still an issue.  Yes, really.

      My parents live in a nearby county, where the zoning laws are nearly nonexistent as well as property taxes.  My Palin-loving, gun-toting mother actually said that she wished for stricter zoning laws in her county, after she had an asshole move next door to her who plopped a crappy old trailer, piles of junk, and would ride a four-wheeler around the perimeter of his property, including by the part of their house that faced their bedroom, at 3 a.m.

      1.  Though in large chunks of the world it’s limited to safety concerns (don’t dig here, there are wires. No you can’t build this wall out of firecrackers), only cover certain types of improvements, and they are generally rubberstamped. (And the process is often ignored)

        Obviously, this is not one of those places.

        1. Developing world maybe, I can’t imagine there’s too many places say in Europe, Australia/New Zealand, or North America where things are like that. Maybe some states in the U.S. where “big government” is considered evil and even then I think there would be more regulations then you’d imagine.

          1. As a New Zealander I can state that things are nowhere near as crazy as described above – any kind of major alteration to a house (think extension) will require a resource consent which can have conditions attatched but the process is smooth and straight forward.

            Want to build a fence, make alterations to the exterior of the house, build a deck, re landscape, lay concrete etc etc go right ahead. Its also very routine to work creatively around planning rules eg you can build a sleep out without planning consent if its technically moveable and doen’t have an oven. 

            Sure people still complain about red tape but I have never heard anyone I know have major issues getting any kind of planning or consent.

          2. Certainly, the degree as to how difficult things will vary wildly from country to country and even from one local council to another. My point was simply that virtually every developed nation does have planning rules and if you want to do something the rules state requires a permit, you’ll need to get permission. 

            Build a fence, yes fine, don’t need a permit. Build it 10 ft tall and paint it fluorescent green, I’m guessing you’ll have council regulations stopping you.

          3. When I applied to have my roof resurfaced, I had to provide a ‘before’ photo of the roof as part of the application, so that they could make sure that the redone roof looked EXACTLY like the previous version. I had to get a permit to put in a sprinkler system. I had to get a permit to put in a security system. I had to get permits for fences, walls, new pool plaster, replacement pool equipment, landscaping, etc. Many places require you to get permission to trim your own trees.

            Some municipalities use the permit system to enforce safety regulations. Many of them use it as income generation by demanding permits for everything, even if they have zero impact on health and safety.

      2. Well, my neighborhood has rules, but I can get a list of them, and as long as I don’t break them, I don’t need permission from anyone. The rules are pretty lenient, mostly height and how far back from the sidewalk.
        Now, major renovations are a different story.  But you only need a building permit if you are knocking down walls or digging foundations.If I wanted to enclose my front porch in screens, or glass, or, well, just about anything, I could.Ocean Beach neighborhood, San Diego, CA, USA.

        1. A building permit isn’t a planning permit, at least not in a lot of places, San Diego included. The planning permit will cover whether the renovations or buildings you want to do will conform to the local planning regulations, i.e. does it conform with neighbourhood character, is it a use that is allowed (business or residence, single family house or a block of flats, etc) and the building permit will cover structural stuff, e.g. will that wall actually hold the weight of the second story.

          Also, the rules for your neighbourhood are not quite as simple as you seem to believe. Here’s a 94 page document explaining (some of) them, with a short excerpt to demonstrate that they’re not quite as plain as you’re making out:

          Bay windows may project into required yards, as shown in Diagram 131-04U, subject to the following requirements:(A) There shall be a minimum 1-foot clearance between the lowest point of the bay window structure and proposed grade directly below;(B) The bay window shall not project into the required yard more than 4 feet or 50 percent of the width of the required yard, whichever is less. The bay window shall not be closer than 3 feet to the property line;(C) The bay window shall not be more than 8 feet in width;(D) The bay window may extend to the maximum permitted height of the building envelope; and(E) There shall be a 16-foot or greater spacing between bay windows, and no more than two bay windows per elevation shall encroach into the required yard.

          So good luck with the permit for your new bay windows!

    1. You don’t need permission for everything. There are certain changes you can make without getting planning permission. For major changes, yeah you need to get permission. This seems reasonable, otherwise there would be no purpose in planning system and our cities would look much worse than they do.

      1. There are many localities in which even cosmetic changes require approval. You may not be allowed to change the color of your house.

        1.  And I just hope that I never find myself unlucky enough to end up owning a home in one. *fingers crossed*

          1. My previous house wasn’t even in a planned community.  It was in a neighborhood that somehow ended up as an architectural review zone because of dubious claims of historical design value.  There are certainly real historical districts, but this wasn’t one of them.

  2. Wait, do they still make bakelite? More importantly, can I make my own stuff out of bakelite? I mean, I could always put brown dye in normal casting resin, but bakelite has a feel all to its own.

    1.  In case anyone is interested, bakelite is made out of phenol and formaldehyde rendered into a resin in a high temperature pressure vessel. If you want that extra little bit of horribleness, you can add asbestos to it.

      So to answer my own question, no, it’s not really a DIY kind of material. Darn.

      1. When making forgeries Han van Meegeren (supposedly) added raw bakelite resin to his paints to give them that old look and to stand up to the acetone test. Long time exposure is probably what did him in.

  3. You need city council permission on what to do with your own balcony? Don’t they have more important stuff to do?

    Oh. UK; the land of no Freedon to Roam. Just another expression of feudality in mentality if not in name, I guess?

    1. Depending on the extent of what you’re doing to your balcony, that’s pretty much the norm. And having moved from a country where the only things that might have hold you back was a non-expired warranty on external elevation, I pretty much enjoy that. You’re not the only person who gets to watch your balcony every single day, you know.

        1. If by “ugly” you meant “dressed up as a gigantic Heineken ad” then yeah, your comment is relevant.

    2. “You need city council permission on what to do with your own balcony?”

      I think you missed the point of the complaint, planning permission is pretty important – it’s how it’s managed that’s the issue.

  4. Cory, Hackney is NOT the worst performing planning authority.

    Even the link you posted doesn’t support the notion. Mr Pickles isn’t just ‘one MP’, as a Cabinet minister for an aggressively pro-business Conservative-led government, it’s his job to undermine planning and Labour local authorities. You’d do well to exercise extreme scepticism before quoting him to support your complaints.

  5. I sympathise.  Just had some work done SW London, and my ill-tempered neighbour, although unable to prevent the grant of planning permission, spent his time escalating the fees I had to pay surveyors, material suppliers and builders to the level of … oh, I don’t know.  A f*g 2012 iMac 27 with all the trimmings.

    Looked at Hackney council.  Liked this: says “London Legacy Development Corporation” is now responsible.  Then: says Hackney Council is responsible. No confusion there, then. I’m acquainted with a council member who heads the complaints committee of a large regional town.  She confirmed that the planning dept and licensing dept are the favourite job destinations for council workers. Why?  Ummm … greasy palms is why.  They can never catch them though. So you shouldn’t be blaming the council.  You should look deep inside yourself, and figure out how to play along with the endemic corruption.  (not really, just pretending)

    1. The second link doesn’t say anything about areas of responsibility, just that Hackney’s policy applies until the Legacy Corporation develops their own policy.

      from the first link:
      “Hackney Council is no longer the local planning authority for the area of Hackney Wick east of the A12; responsibilities have been passed to the London Legacy Development Corporation.” 

      If you’re in Hackey east of the A12, LLDC is your planning authority, and at present they will make decisions based on Hackney’s policy, until the LLDC develop their own policy.

      If you’re anywhere else in Hackney, then Hackney Council IS your planning authority. Hope this is helpful.

      1. Thanks for clarifying – perhaps helpful to Cory.

        My innocent confusion is  indicative of the overall planning regime in England & Wales – it’s absurd.

        While people are absorbed in their small and frustrating battles over 3 foot extensions to their ground floor kitchens (or whatever), great residential towers rise over them with no notice whatsoever.

        The point is this – planning departments are rife with at the least smoky obfuscation, and at the worst, corruption.  I’ve watched as developers play various tactics to wear down local resistance to things, but simultaneously the councils play a kind of warped local consultation game similar to vote district rigging – some developments get massive attention and consultation, and some – none at all.

        They’re amazingly good at it too.  Which is concerning – because the penalties for a council member being caught assisting a development program through the acceptance process are severe.

        So there really can only be one reason to do it.



  6. Cory wrote: “turned down because it would “disrupt the street-scene”.

    Are you sure that’s the reason? Do your proposed alterations alter the look of the building significantly, have your plans changed many times throughout your multiple planning consent requests?

    1. Are you sure that’s the reason?


       Do your proposed alterations alter the
      look of the building significantly


      , have your plans changed many times
      throughout your multiple planning consent requests? 


      1. Although I’ve never made a planning application myself I wonder what the point of not changing the proposed plans is if you are resubmitting requests for the same refused plan?

        Also I don’t see the phrase “disrupt the street scene” on Hackney’s planning refusal page for your submission.

        1. The exact phrase is, “As such the proposed extension would detract from the character and appearance of the street scene”.

      2.  Hmm, I think describing it as “a glass box on my disused balcony to grow plants in” gives a different impression to the planning application, “construction of a single storey front extension on the existing balcony at second floor level with the erection of a roof terrace above at third floor level.”

        I could be convinced that “the proposed extension, […] is considered to be out of character with, and incongruous to, the host building. […] would detract from the character and appearance of the street scene”, but it looks a complete mess anyway, so I’m not sure why they care.

  7. Did anybody else notice the reference numbers?
    TR7/XJS (mid-70s British sports cars)
    TSR 1/ G-BOAC (failed 1960s British fighter aircraft / reg number of a BA Concorde)
    RB211/A320 (Rolls Royce jet that bankrupted the company / Airbus narrowbody)
    VC10/BAC1-11 (British passenger jets of the 1960s)
    IL86/TU-144 (USSR copies of VC10 and Concorde)
    etc. etc.

  8. Many UK houses have old covenants on their houses that ban them from having fun fairs, caravans, show roundabouts or swings in their front gardens. But good luck in finding the covenant owners to enforce those.

    There’s also 3rd party wall agreements. If you don’t have one of those, and you’re building within 1 metre of the boundary line, then your neighbour can get a injunction to stop your building work.

    Brighton, aka London-on-Sea or Skidrow-on-Sea, has a lot of houses thrown up to home soldiers in the early 1800s with next to no foundations. So doing any building work on these 200 year old houses can lead to horror after horror.

  9. I thought UK planning notices were kept on display in the basement in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.

  10. I can sympathize with the fight with local permitting and planning commissions.  I wanted to enclose my back porch and move my kitchen there.  I would have had a licensed plumber and an electrician do the plumbing and electrical work, but the rest of it I could have done myself.  However, I was required to have an architect create the plans, provide the original house and lot plans showing all internal and external walls and setbacks, and retrofit the existing porch to comply with current building code.  If I did the work myself to code, it would have cost about $3000.  All the other additions tripled the cost, and made me abandon the plan in favor of remodeling the current kitchen.  Meanwhile, big housing developments go merrily along.

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