Lambeth takes on developers who squeezed in ‘too many unauthorised flats’

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

A pair of developers that squeezed 14 apartments into two neighbouring properties meant to contain just six are locked in a battle with the local authority over the future of the extra flats.

In February, Lambeth council issued two enforcement notices ordering the owners of seven and nine Rita Road in Vauxhall to stop using the unauthorised flats in the two properties and remove them by October.

But in April, two appeals were submitted against the council’s order, arguing that the enforcement notices would have ‘very serious implications for the existing tenants’ living in the flats.

The Planning Inspectorate – a government body that deals with planning appeals – will now make a decision on the future of the apartments.

According to the enforcement notices issued by the council, the unauthorised flats result in ‘substandard, cramped and over-intensive accommodation to the detriment of current or future occupiers’.

The flats ‘fail adopted recommended minimum spatial standards, have a lack of storage space and have increased opportunity for noise impact between flats’, according to the notice.

A ‘family-sized flat’ created at the basement level in each of the properties comes in for particular criticism. The apartment in each building is described as providing ‘gloomy living space and inadequate outlook’ and having ‘unsustainable reliance on artificial light’.

Construction work to create the extra flats appears to have begun on the two properties sometime between 2021 and 2022, shortly after Lambeth council accepted a planning application to make changes to seven to nine Rita Road in April, 2021.

The approved plans include the erection of a rear mansard extension, creations of a basement lightwell and internal alterations to the two properties, but they make no mention of adding more flats.

The planning application approved in 2021 was submitted by Glenhazel Ltd. According to Companies House – the government’s register of UK companies – the sole officer of this company is Muhammad Nadeem Siddiqi, a chartered accountant.

Mr Siddiqi is also the officer of a company called Henley Beech Limited, which has brought the appeal against Lambeth council’s enforcement action at seven Rita Road to the Planning Inspectorate.

The company is registered at the same address on Trinity Road in Tooting, South London as Glenhazel Ltd. This address is a block subdivided into a number of apartments.

A different company, Ascot Gate Limited, has brought the appeal against enforcement action at 9 Rita Road. Muahmmad Nadeem Siddiqi is a former officer at this company but resigned in July 2022.

Ascot Gate Limited is registered at a residential apartment block on Tooting High Street. Sophia Amejee is listed as the company’s managing director. She was appointed as an officer at the company on the same day that Siddiqi resigned.

Tenants are believed to have moved into the flats in the two properties on Rita Road following the completion of building work last year, and they rent through a letting agency.

One contacted resident living in a one-bedroom flat said they were paying £1,800 per month to live there. Another tenant renting a studio apartment in one of the properties said they paid £1,400 per month.

Oliver Johnson, 25, who lives next to nine Rita Road said: “People think London is too expensive and rent is so expensive, so why not split up these flats because people will move into them?

“But you shouldn’t be stuffing as many people into a city as possible.”

In an email, Mr Siddiqi said: “Due to client confidentiality I am unable to provide any information. All relevant information will be provided to the London Borough of Lambeth.”

Pictured top: Rita Road, where the two unauthorised flats are in Vauxhall (Picture: Robert Firth)

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