Star-gazer refused permission for observatory after neighbour claimed he was forced to wear sunglasses indoors

The observatory in Garden Close, St Ives. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONT

The observatory in Garden Close, St Ives. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONT - Credit: Archant

The observatory, built by keen star-watcher Melvyn Thurlbourn, has been branded “incongruous” and “un-neighbourly” by Huntingdonshire District Council, which has just turned down a retrospective planning application for the building at Garden Close.

The observatory, built by keen star-watcher Melvyn Thurlbourn, has been branded "incongruous" and "un-neighbourly" by Huntingdonshire District Council, which has just turned down a retrospective planning application for the building at Garden Close.

The white dome, mounted on a garden shed, stands almost 12ft high and was being rejected for a second time after being put up in 2017.

Mr Thurlbourn had offered to paint the dome matt grey and to put plants in to help disguise the telescope-holding building.

A neighbour told the council: "(The) structure of 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.


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"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."

A report by a council planner said: "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 8 Abbots Crescent. The dome is also visible from public views along Abbots Crescent and is a prominent feature in the rear gardens of Abbots Crescent and Kings Hedges.

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"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 said the shed element of the building was acceptable but the problems were caused by the dome. Proposals to repaint the dome and put in planting would not reduce the over-bearing nature of the building.

The town's civic society 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."

St Ives Town Council approved the plan and welcomed the offer to paint the observatory and plant screening.

A statement submitted in support of the application said the observatory and its base could be moved on the site to an area where it did not need permission or the repainting and planting.

"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 unreasonable incidental use of the land."

The statement said the convex surface of the dome could not reflect light in the way suggested, as a domestic greenhouse could without restriction.

It added: "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."

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