September 26, 2021

Man told to tear down 12ft-high observatory after neighbour said needed sunglasses because of glare

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Amateur stargazer is told to tear down 12ft-high observatory that he built in his garden after a neighbour complained that the glare from it forced him to wear sunglasses

  • Melvyn Thurlbourn put the 12ft high dome on top of his shed in  Cambridgeshire
  • His neighbour said the sun shining off the dome forced him to wear sunglasses 
  • Mr Thurlbourn unsuccessfully applied for retrospective planning consent twice
  • He has now appealed the decision to the Planning Inspectorate

By Chantalle Edmunds For Mailonline

Published: 08:00 EDT, 17 October 2019 | Updated: 13:37 EDT, 17 October 2019

An amateur stargazer who built an observatory in his garden has been told to tear it down after a neighbour complained the glare from it left him needing to wear sunglasses.

Melvyn Thurlbourn put the 12ft high dome on top of his shed in his backyard in St Ives, Cambridgeshire without planning permission two years ago.

His neighbour complained saying the sun shining off the white structure forced him to don shades even when he was in his house.

An amateur stargazer who built an observatory in his garden has been told to tear it down after a neighbour complained the glare from it left him needing to wear sunglasses

Mr Thurlbourn applied for retrospective planning consent twice but both failed and he now has to pull it down.

The keen astronomer built the observatory in his garden in the upmarket area of St Ives, Cambridgeshire, two years ago.

 Melvyn Thurlbourn put the 12ft high dome (pictured) on top of his shed in his backyard in St Ives, Cambridgeshire without planning permission, two years ago

A neighbour who objected to the plans said: ‘The structure of the dome is constructed of white fibreglass, which has a highly reflective glare – causes serious impact on my usage of my own garden as the glare transmitted into my garden is such that I cannot be in my own garden in the daytime without having to wear sunglasses to shield my eyes from the glare.

‘The glare transmits into my house and is so bad that I cannot keep my curtains open unless I wear sunglasses inside my own house.’

St Ives Civic Society also objected to the proposals and said: ‘The white dome is in very close proximity to the boundary of three neighbours and is so close there is little possibility of the applicant using tree or hedge screening to mitigate the view.

‘Consequently, and in view of the height and stark appearance of the dome the society’s view is the application is overbearing.’

A resident in Melvyn Thurlbourn’s street complained about the dome saying the sun shining off the white structure forced him to don shades even when he was in his house

His first planning application was refused.

Mr Thurlbourn offered to paint the dome matte grey and to put plants in to help disguise the telescope-holding building and submitted a second retrospective application.

In a planning statement, Mr Thurlbourn said its base could be moved on the site to an area where it did not need permission or the repainting and planting.

He added: ‘Whilst it is true that looking at stars at this level is not commonplace, it is not unique or even rare.

‘It is well established that incidental enjoyment of a dwelling house is lawful, and it does not appear that the local planning authority dispute that this is the applicant’s genuine hobby.

‘Astronomy, particularly on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, cannot be said to be an unreasonable incidental use of the land.

A neighbour who lives on Abbots Crescent (pictured) who objected to the plans said: ‘The structure of the dome is constructed of white fibreglass, which has a highly reflective glare – causes serious impact on my usage of my own garden as the glare transmitted into my garden is such that I cannot be in my own garden in the daytime without having to wear sunglasses to shield my eyes from the glare’

Mr Thurlbourn offered to paint the dome (plans above) matt grey and to put plants in to help disguise the telescope-holding building and submitted a second retrospective application. It was turned down

‘In all the circumstances, it is considered that the council should accept the applicant’s proposals to: 1) paint the dome matt grey, 2) plant a vegetative screen along the south western boundary adjacent number eight 3m high.’

However, civic chiefs turned it down after council planners branded the building ‘incongruous’ and ‘un-neighbourly.’

Case officer Lewis Collins at Huntingdonshire Council said in planning documents: ‘The harmful visual impacts of the development are created by the dome which projects above the fence line by approximately 1.8m, creating an overbearing impact to the rear garden of a neighbouring house.

Mr Thurlbourn applied for retrospective planning consent twice but both failed and he now has to pull the dome down. Mr Thurlbourn has now appealed the decision to the Planning Inspectorate

‘The dome is also visible from public views along the road and is a prominent feature in the rear gardens.

‘This type of development, while only for personal use of the applicant, is not the type of structure you would normally expect to see in this residential location.

‘Given the scale, bulk and design of the observatory dome it is considered to be an incongruous form of development and un-neighbourly given its location and height in close proximity to neighbouring garden.’

He added that the shed element of the building was acceptable but stressed that the dome was not.

Concluding the council’s decision, Mr Collins said: ‘Taking national and local planning policies into account, and having regard for all relevant material considerations, it is recommended that planning permission be refused.’

Mr Thurlbourn has now appealed the decision to the Planning Inspectorate.

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