A couple have been ordered to take down their balcony after a former Bishop complained it invaded his privacy.
Jamie Beadle, 44, and his wife Nicola, 38, spent more than £5,000 erecting the 10ft-high wooden decking at their family home in Chatham, Kent.
The father-of-three spent months fitting the decking and claims he was in regular contact with Medway Council over the development.
But now the Beadles have been told to take the balcony down after their application for retrospective planning permission was rejected.
The only formal complaint was lodged by next-door neighbours Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, 63, the 106th Bishop of Rochester until he stepped down in 2009, and his wife Valerie, 66.
Bizarrely the former Bishop complained despite having spent almost #1,500 extending his own fence so the decking does not overlook his conservatory.
He is also known to have connections to a number of local councillors.
In a letter to Medway Council, the Nazir-Alis said: “We have serious concerns for the loss of privacy to our home and garden, with potential attendant security concerns and we fear these may additionally have implications for the value of our property.”
Medway Council planning officers recommended for the proposal to be accepted, but councillors unanimously denied planning permission for the decking.
Cllr Adrian Gulvin, a Conservative, said: “I wouldn’t like it next to me. It’s totally over the top.”
Cllr David Carr, also a Conservative, added: “My God, what’s it going to look like when it’s got screening on?”
The Beadles, who both work for insurance firm Lloyds of London, said they were “shocked” by the reaction and said they never wanted to break the rules.
Jamie, who has lodged a complaint against Medway Council, said: “When the planning officer came round I said ‘is this going to be a problem?’ and they said it would probably be more of a box-ticking exercise.
“That was six months ago and it’s dragged on since then.
“I feel quite strongly that every citizen has an equal right to fair treatment, and in this case I feel I have not been treated equally.”
He added: “We need safe access from the door at the rear of the house. I’m not trying to build a supermarket on a bit of green field.
“I’m just replacing some dangerous landscaping and making it safe.”
Nicola said: “We just wanted to make a good family home. We have no interest in looking over the fence at them whatsoever.
“We asked for advice from the council and we’re still in this position. We didn’t ask to be in this position.”
Medway Council planning officers would have had the final say on whether planning permission would be granted.
But ward councillor Trevor Clarke, a Churches Together in Medway columnist, who has publicly supported the bishop on other issues, referred the application to the planning committee as part of standard planning rules.
None of the 15 committee members declared an interest at the meeting.
A Medway Council spokesman said: “Members are advised they should also consider declaring an interest and if necessary excluding themselves from considering and voting on a planning application where they are either biased, have a conflict of interest or have pre-determined the application.”
Dr Nazir-Ali, who was born in Pakistan, was the first non-white diocesan bishop in the Church of England and was once mooted as a possible Archbishop of Canterbury.
He received death threats after claiming parts of Britain had become “no-go” areas for non-Muslims during his tenure in Rochester from 1994 to 2009.
He is now the president of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue, which aims to support Christians in parts of the world experiencing religious tension.
The Beadles plan to appeal the decision.
Speaking after the meeting ward member Cllr Trevor Clarke, a conservative, denied there was any conflict of interest.
He said: “I was rather surprised that there was a recommendation of approval from the planning officers. It did look a bit over-the-top to me.
“I make very robust recommendations and the committee don’t always listen to me.
“There’s no conflict of interest in the sense that I didn’t get a say in the decision.
“It’s a coincidence that they happen to have been people I’ve met before.”
Libby Blaxall, from Michael Nazir-Ali’s Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy & Dialogue office, said Mr Nazir-Ali was unavailable to comment.
She said: “Bishop Michael is overseas at the moment so I doubt that he will be in a position to comment on this story.”