A long running planning abuse case where a redundant telephone repeater station, with limited access, was turned into an illegal dwelling has ended with a win for long troubled residents and Hounslow’s planning enforcement.
The council served notice on the building owner mid October 2013 to stop the use of the building as a self contained residential unit; remove all kitchen and bathroom facilities, and installed gas piping and connections; remove all resultant debris (see report to Planning Enforcement Sub-Committee of 3.10.2013 here).
The owner, suggesting continued occupation for more than four years, then applied for a certificate of lawful use as a self contained residential dwelling but in April 2014 the Council decided that the existing use was not lawful. The owner then appealed to the government’s Planning Inspectorate that examined the case and reported this week. The full appeal decision of 25.8.2015 can be read here.
The inspector’s ten page report is an interesting read, particularly the schedule at the back.
What it does not reflect is the suffering reported by residents of this end of Spencer Road caused by the impact of the haphazard management and anti social occupation of this site. Often, bailiffs would seek the illegal bungalow’s occupants who gave the address rear of 141-149 Spencer Road. Knocking on those homeowners’ doors pursuing non payers of various debts. The area became a magnet for flytipping and other annoyances.
One resident contacting since the inspector’s decision asked for the building to be demolished and, “given that the inspector indicates that the developer has sought to mislead council officers (and appears to have gone to considerable lengths to do so), is there any route by which costs could be recovered or some sort of penalty imposed?”
Legally, the council’s enforcement team would not be allowed to go as far as neighbours should want them to. The latest decision does mean that the team’s officers will be carrying out an inspection to clarify the current use of the premises. If the building is found to still being used for residential purposes, a witness statement will be made to that affect and legal proceedings started against the owner.
Unfortunately, the council will only be able to recoup those costs involved in any prosecution and not previous costs although it may be able to seek action under the Proceeds of Crime Act for money the owner has received in relation to renting the premises.
Advice is, however, that it is only the use of the premises as a self-contained residential unit that needs to cease. Only the kitchen and bathroom facilities need to be removed; the building itself can remain.
Further enquiries are being made on whether the original structure should be the only part of the building that may stay.