A COUNCIL boss has explained how many controversial planning development decisions are made after a scheme to extend a house was approved despite neighbours claiming it would be disastrous for them.

Darlington Borough Council’s planning development manager said when there was an apparent conflict between two parties over a proposal, the decision often boiled down to a judgement on the “reasonable expectations” of applicants and objectors.

Dave Coates was speaking after the authority’s planning committee passed a young couple’s plan for a two-storey extension to their home in Milbank Road, Darlington, following concerns over its impact on a neighbouring property and garden in terms of loss of light, outlook and privacy.

The meeting heard while the applicants wanted extra space ahead of potentially starting a family, the stress of the prospect of “looking out onto a new blank wall” for neighbours with short gardens had caused one neighbour to sell her property and another to consider doing so.

Neighbour Tony Charlton said while the distance between the proposed extension and his kitchen was just 7.7m, one third of the distance the council required when new homes were being built back to back.

He said: “We are at a loss to understand why there cannot be a similar space standard applied in this case where our bungalow faces the side of a two-storey house. We have no wish to criticise the applicant’s aspirations, but we do submit there are alternative means of providing the additional space he requires without having a detrimental effect on neighbours.”

However, the meeting heard while such proposals must maintain adequate daylight to enter the main rooms of nearby buildings, maintain adequate privacy and should not be overbearing, members agreed with the planning officers’ view that the scheme was not “unreasonable”.

Officers said the proposed first floor extension featuring a low, hipped roof would still allow for an acceptable outlook from neighbouring properties and gardens.

After the meeting, Mr Coates said such decisions were made by “balancing the reasonable expectations of neighbours and applicants” and had to be made on a case by case basis.

He said even if the committee had rejected the scheme, a Government inspector would probably have overturned the decision on appeal. Mr Coates added: “There are certain policies that guide us, but a lot of it is relatively informed subjective opinions. Some objectors will make a case for it destroying their life, but usually building an extension doesn’t.”