Burglar alarms judged too unsightly to be displayed on Victorian-era homes in an exclusive London neighbourhood will be allowed to stay in place.

Westminster City councillors have resolved a five-year long battle over the alarm boxes that were installed on the front of multi-million-pound townhouses in Bayswater.

They rejected their own planners' recommendations to refuse retrospective permission for the burglar alarms to remain on the Grade-II listed homes, with most citing "common sense".

The alarms, dotted on eight of the white stucco homes on Hereford Street, were the subject of a complaint by a member of the public in 2013.

The alarm boxes had been installed without planning authorisation, and the residents could have faced enforcement action if they were found to be in breach of the council's rules.

Planning advice said the alarms were not in keeping with the homes, described in the papers as "attractive circa 1850s terraced houses".

Here's what they look like ...

The burglar alarms on these heritage Victorian townhouses on Hereford Street were the subject of a complaint that their appearance was not in keeping with the neighbourhood

"The alarm box appears as an intrusive and detracting feature against the attractive Victorian terrace buildings," planners wrote.

"The alarm boxes are modern utilitarian features which do not sympathetically relate to the architectural style and detailing of the host building and the wider terrace as a whole."

The Notting Hill East Neighbourhood Forum initially raised an objection against the applications for retrospective permission on the grounds the boxes presented visual clutter.

However, it had since adopted a neutral position, noting the police recommended alarm boxes, and that there were already similar boxes throughout Westminster.

About 25 unauthorised alarm boxes had been counted on Hereford Road alone, the sub-committee's papers said.

The forum instead asked that a consistent location and style for alarm boxes be established for listed buildings, to become a London-wide policy.

The sub-committee heard presentations defending residents from Bayswater ward councillors, including councillors Richard Elcho (Conservative) and Maggie Carman (Labour).

Cllr Carman said burglaries were frequent on the street, listing multiple break-ins this year, and describing one resident's fright to find that even her third-floor home was not safe from burglars.

Only last weekend, another resident had a piece of wood thrown through her window, she added.

Cllr Elcho added that it seemed the planning policies for listed buildings were out of step with the reality of London's crime rate.

“Alarm boxes have been allowed to proliferate throughout Westminster and it’s unfair that these residents should be targeted,” Cllr Elcho said.



There had been suggestions of a compromise, with the alarm boxes shifted to less visible positions on the buildings.

This idea ultimately did not impress the councillors, who instead made suggestions about painting colourful logos white instead.

“Nobody is in dispute in terms of the principle of alarm boxes; they are a deterrent, and as they are a deterrent they need to be visible - otherwise what is the point of them?” sub-committee chairman Robert Rigby (Conservative) asked.

Sub-committee members Cllr Rigby, Cllr David Boothroyd (Labour) and Conservative councillors James Spencer and Louise Hyams voted unanimously for retrospective planning permission to be granted for the boxes.

Cllr Hyams suggested in future the planning policy might need to be amended to allow alarms, balancing the need for crime prevention with protecting listed buildings' appearance.