Monday, 20 September 2021

Judge demands two extensions are torn down

A DEVELOPER which is ignoring orders to tear down its illegal extensions to a listed property in Henley has lost its fight to have another planning application on the site decided.

The High Court has ruled that Wokingham Borough Council was right to ignore the submission by Chesterton Commercial (Bucks), which owns Bird Place Cottage off White Hill, after it refused to obey several enforcement notices issued by the authority two years ago.

Last September it sought consent to erect a first-floor balcony that would connect a garage and boathouse it built on the riverside plot in 2015. It had permission for these two-storey structures but not for a third half-finished one linking them, to which the balcony was to be attached.

The firm, of Lower Earley, had also built two unauthorised single-storey extensions to the Grade II* listed cottage itself and had been told to demolish all unapproved works.

Grahame Bryant, the company’s principal director, appealed about 18 months ago but planning inspector Chris Preston upheld the council’s notices, pointing out that the third building had extended the overall footprint by 12.8 per cent more than permitted.

The company has yet to comply but nonetheless sought a judicial review of the authority’s refusal to determine the balcony application, which could have forced it to reach a verdict.

However, at a hearing in London last Friday, judge Martin Rodger QC ruled the borough council didn’t have to do anything while the enforcement notices remained active and dismissed the challenge by Mr Bryant.

The garage proposal, which included an upstairs office, sparked objection from Remenham Parish Council as well as Henley Royal Regatta, whose headquarters adjoin the site, and about a dozen neighbours.

Opponents said the 6m tall building would overlook surrounding properties, reduce light coming into the regatta offices and could harm protected trees.

Another application was then submitted for a single-storey “garden furniture store” with a ground-floor terrace linking the boathouse and garage as well as a rooftop terrace with external doors connecting the upper storeys.

This was withdrawn amid renewed complaints but work started anyway and the applicant sought retrospective permission for a modified version, which was refused.

Wokingham Borough Council then issued the enforcement notices and snubbed the balcony application because, it argued, it couldn’t allow it without also permitting the unauthorised works.

At the hearing, Sasha White QC and Anjoli Foster, for Chesterton, said this was “plainly unlawful” because of the “substantive and real differences” between the new proposal and the contested development.

They said the roof of the linking building was to be shrunk by two-thirds, glass screens on the ground floor removed and it was no longer to be used as a store.

But Mr Rodger said: “There can be no doubt that granting planning permission for the balcony would involve granting permission for part of the matters specified in the enforcement notice.”

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