Friday, November 17, 2006

"Enforcement not expedient"

Residents of the Albert Rd, Swinburne Rd and Station Rd area of Eaglescliffe cannot help but be aware of the ongoing problems with 13/15 Station Rd. For others, a brief outline:
This is the building at the corner of Station Rd and Swinburne Rd. A couple of years ago it was extremely run-down in appearance and many businesses and residents complained that it spoiled the area. Ownership changed and eventually a planning application was submitted for an extension with conversion of the rear into 4 flats. Although the extension was quite large it seemed on balance to the planning authority that the end result would be a much tidier, pleasanter building in this conservation area and so approval was granted. But then came another application to make the extension even bigger. Despite misgivings councillors were persuaded that the increase in size being asked for would not make a significant difference to the area. Oh how wrong could we be? The neighbour most affected was not in a position to speak up for herself and we later discovered that far from being a little used window near the new build this was her living room. Her quality of life was severely impaired.
Then, to add insult to injury, the roof was built 1.2m higher than approved. The developer refused to lower it and refused to seek retrospective planning permission. The question of whether to enforce a reduction in height came to planning committee 3 weeks ago. The report to committee had errors in it, other parts were ambiguous, and the engineer told us that the parking arrangement is illegal anyway! The report was sent away to be rewritten.
On Wednesday it came back to committee. The developer's agent was so arrogant, telling councillors that if they voted for enforcement it would fail at court and the council would be liable for substantial costs. I could hardly speak - I was so angry with him. In the end, despite everyone being furious that he was getting away with behaving like this the committee vote was split 7-7 and the chairman's casting vote decided the matter in favour of the developer. So the extra roof height stays, he's got an illegal devlopment to sell or rent because without planning permission it's not legal even though we aren't going to enforce compliance with plans, but as long as someone will take it off his hands he's all right.
I hate enforcement cases, but this one has annoyed me so much it's a good job I'm not on a blood pressure monitor.

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