Thursday, 17 August 2017

Marina couple told to move ‘unlawful’ houseboat office

THE owners of a marina are furious after being ordered to remove their new floating offices.

THE owners of a marina are furious after being ordered to remove their new floating offices.

Lisa and Ben Caddick, who run Val Wyatt Marine, off Willow Lane, Wargrave, have been told by Wokingham Borough Council that the houseboat is unlawful because it replaced an historic timber houseboat.

The couple have already been prosecuted and ordered to pay £18,000 for “demolishing” the old boathouse by moving it to another part of the site without permission.

The Caddicks say the new boathouse not only serves as their offices but also protects their business from flooding and has helped support Local Larder, a shop which moved into the former offices.

They have been issued with an enforcement notice ordering them to remove the new offices and a separate notice has been issued ordering the shop to close.



Mrs Caddick said: “We are a little confused because the council has not been clear on what the problem is.

“Because this is a houseboat it doesn’t come under planning legislation but even if that was an issue I don’t understand what harm we are causing.

“We have removed a dilapidated structure which was a health and safety risk and put a houseboat in place which has made our offices aesthetically nicer and flood-proof. Flooding has been a big problem for us. At no point has the council even invited us to regularise anything or explained what the problem is in plain English. We don’t understand the reasoning and what the harm is.”

Val Wyatt was founded in 1845 and has been owned by Mrs Caddick’s family for more than 40 years. Her father bought the business in 1977 and she took over with her husband after giving up her career as a chartered accountant.

The marina is prone to flooding and in 2014 the old offices were under 8in of water after the river burst its banks.

Mrs Caddick says the new offices protect the business from similar incidents and enables the couple to work all-yearround. She said: “We understand that planning law is to stop damage being caused to the environment and neighbours but we are trying to get our business operational throughout the year without being crippled by floodwater. The flooding we experienced in 2013 and 2014 was horrendous and the impact on the business was huge.

“We have had advice to say we can do this and we have asked the council on numerous occasions to come round but they just will not discuss anything with us.

“It’s very frustrating, especially when there’s so much support for us. Pretty much everyone who comes here says it’s amazing and ingenious and they adore the shop. It’s costing us a huge amount of time and money trying to defend ourselves. We want to employ more people but have probably already used up an extra two people’s salaries. It’s just silly.”

The couple plan to appeal against the enforcement notices.

Mr Caddick said: “We have a river licence from the Environment Agency for the houseboat and I’d say they know more about the waterways than the borough council. If the agency is happy to give us a licence for a second year in a row why isn’t the council?”

Mrs Caddick said Local Larder, which is run by Alison Hussey, supported more than 50 smaller businesses which would have nowhere else to sell their products.

The shop holds regular food swap events but the council says it has not been granted consent for change of use from offices to business.

Mrs Caddick said: “There has always been a shop which is ancillary to the marina. We want to support Alison and the small businesses.”

A council spokesman  said: “The enforcement notices relate to a new structure in the green belt site conservation area, which is contrary to local and national planning policy.

“This new building replaces an historic boathouse which was unlawfully demolished and we successfully prosecuted the owners as a result.

“It is our job to protect the countryside and green belt from harmful unauthorised developments and uses.

“We spoke at length to the owners about the breaches at the site. We have no record of refusing to meet them. Planning can only be regularised through a planning application, which we would not support, or by complying with the notice.”



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