"Put that ugly pebble dash back at once," demand neighbours

A frustrated London homeowner who stripped pebbledash from her home has been ordered to replace it or face legal action.
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Susanne Willumsen, of West Hampstead, thought she was improving her £2.3m home when she replaced the lumpy surface with plain white render.

Pebbledash has been in use since Tudor times, but has firmly fallen from fashion.

A study published earlier this this year found that a pebble dash or stone clad exterior was one of the biggest property turn offs, disliked by 31 per cent of those surveyed by gocompare.com. It was seen as a worse problem than a dated kitchen or uPvc windows.

However Ms Willumsen’s neighbours were horrified by the changes to her home, and the local residents group, the West End Green Conservation Area Advisory Committee, complained to Camden Council.

Council officers agreed that removing the cladding meant her house stood out from others on the street, and ordered her to replace it. She appealed but a Government planning inspector has upheld the council’s decision.

“The house was completely run down and had not been done up since the 1950s,” said Ms Willumsen. “I thought I was improving it and I thought that I was fine to remove the pebbledash. But somehow it is obviously something that is very close to people’s hearts.”

Inspector David Rose agreed with Camden that the pebble-dashing had given the house, which is in a conservation area, an “identifiable character” and described the plain white finish as “stark and bland”.

Having spent thousands of pounds on the work Ms Willumsen has a choice of taking her case to the High Court or replacing the pebbledash within three months. If she fails to do so and is prosecuted at the magistrates court level she could be fined anything up to £20,000.

“I have spent enough time and money on this,” she said. I guess I am going to have to get the builders back. I don’t know how much it will cost, but it could be as much as £5,000. It is all very unfortunate. I was completely unaware it was an issue. It has not been a cheap exercise and it could have easily been avoided,” she said, adding that none of her neighbours had complained to her whilst the work was actually being carried out.

Alterations to the façade of a non-listed building do not usually require planning permission but homes in conservation areas are subject to extra restrictions. Owners cannot, for example, put up a two storey rear extension, prune trees, or put up solar panels without consent. Different councils operate different rules and homeowners living in a conservation area must consult their local council before starting work.

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