Council Knocks Down ‘Favela Style’ Extension

Southfields man ignored planning laws claiming to be a 'Freeman of the Land'

The Southfields garden before and after the demolition

A ramshackle and illegal extension that covered the whole of a back garden in West Hill and allowed its owner to stand on the roof and peer into his neighbours’ windows, has been removed by council engineers.

The demolition took place in Arnal Crescent last week after its owner Phoutone Siharath had refused to remove the extension - which was constructed without planning permission.

Measuring eight metres in length, four metres in width and nearly four metres in height, and described as looking like something from a favela, the roof of the home-made extension had been turned into a mini allotment and Mr Siharath was frequently seen standing on the roof tending his plants – giving him a direct view into his neighbours’ bedrooms.

A jury at Kingston Crown Court heard that as soon as the council learned about the extension, it wrote to Mr Siharath and told him it had to be taken down. This was repeatedly ignored, resulting in formal enforcement action and ultimately prosecution.

This prompted Mr Siharath to tell magistrates, a crown court judge and the jury that the laws of the land did not apply to him. Having finally appeared in court, after being arrested and dragged to court for failing to appear at a number of previous hearings, he insisted he was “a Freeman of the land” and not bound by any laws introduced by Government or Parliament

The jury heard that the extension “consists of various timber sections which have been affixed to one-another in an ad-hoc fashion. It has a ramshackle favela like appearance with no apparent over-all design. Its size and massing are substantial… (and)…. taken as a whole the design is wholly substandard and causes visual harm to the host building and the surrounding area.

“The roof is frequently used as an allotment with the occupant spending time gardening attending to the items being grown there. This results in severe and direct overlooking into the first-floor windows of the adjoining properties, seriously undermining their privacy and reasonable enjoyment of their properties. What is more the unacceptable visual appearance of the extension also has a negative effect on the neighbour’s outlook.”

He was convicted of breaching planning laws and fined £15,000 with court costs of £7,586. The judge who sentenced him said he would go to jail for three months if he didn’t pay and told the council to apply for an order allowing it to demolish the extension itself and present Mr Siharath with the bill.

The council will now be taking further legal action against Mr Siharath to recover the full costs of the demolition. Planning chairman Cllr Guy Humphries said: “Neighbours of this gentleman will be breathing a sigh of relief that the unsightly and unwelcome monstrosity in his back garden has finally disappeared.

“Its rickety and tumbledown construction, made with odd bits of timber and other bizarre and unsuitable materials, loomed over their gardens giving him an unfettered view into their bedrooms. It was not an extension that any planning authority in the land could ever consent to.

“By his intransigence and misguided sense of his rights Mr Siharath has shown a complete lack of care or consideration towards his neighbours who have been subjected to one of the worst eyesore extensions I have ever come across.I am really pleased it has now been removed and that neighbours can enjoy their own gardens without this blot on the landscape towering over them.”

February 3, 2020