Homeowners face having their new-build properties flattened after a developer built some of them too high. Families have been told they risk losing their homes because they were built on higher ground than they should have been
Annette Belcher www.walesonline.co.uk
Persimmon Homes was granted permission for 125 homes. But it has now emerged the ground level of the estate was raised by 2.4 metres to make the site flat. It has led to complaints from neighbours in nearby streets that some of the new homes are ‘over-bearing’ and ‘blocking sunlight’, with councillors likening the change to ‘adding an extra storey’.
Now Persimmon – which has outline planning for a further 135 homes on nearby land – has applied for retrospective permission to keep the houses as they are. It is also looking at mitigation measures such as tree and hedgerow planting to provide ‘visual screening,’ StokeonTrentLive reports.
But if permission is refused and a compromise can’t be reached, those living there could see their properties flattened, the chairman of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s planning committee warned. And the council’s lawyers have advised that the homes could have ‘no value’ on the open market anyway as they were sold without proper planning permission.
Planners have deferred a decision so talks can take place with residents. It is understood that eight of the 125 properties are affected.
Legal advisor Justin Price-Jones told a meeting of the planning committee: “It does surprise me somewhat that properties of some considerable value, no doubt, have been sold without planning permission because they’d have absolutely zero value on the market, to my mind at least.” He said there were potentially ‘very serious consequences’ for people living in them if councillors decided to refuse the application.
He added: “Persimmon would have known when they sold it that they didn’t have planning permission. I imagine there’s a lot of people in this equation who don’t know how dire their situation is.” Resident Tracy Milward described the properties as ‘overbearing’, and claimed they blocked sunlight in their gardens.
She said: “This development has been built in breach of the planning application submitted. They have built too high, and too close to the surrounding properties. Consequently ours, and many of our neighbours’ properties are now dwarfed and dominated by this unsightly development.”
She said residents first raised concerns with the council in October 2021 but nothing was done to halt it. She also said it has caused them ‘stress and anxiety’.
She complained: “The system is broken. Persimmon appear to have manipulated planning regulations to their own advantage by submitting drawings they never intended to comply to and then add variations in retrospect. We feel they’re using the system and local communities.”
She said the council would effectively be giving the developer ‘carte blanche’ if they were given the go-ahead. Cheadle town councillor, Paulette Upton agreed, saying: “The plain fact is the developers have blatantly breached the planning permission and we seem to have allowed that to happen.
“Somebody needs to take accountability for this – it sends a shocking message to other developers that they can come to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, put in a planning application and do what the hell they like.”
Committee chairman, Councillor Stephen Ellis said it was the worst situation he’d been put in, from two decades of being involved with planning decisions, and criticised the council’s planning department for not following up on complaints. He said: “It really is an unacceptable situation to be in – to have a committee consider that your brand new house – your home and your asset – could be flattened, it must be absolutely horrendous.
“I can’t believe we’ve placed either set of residents in this situation. I do feel angry in the way that Persimmon have done that.” Councillor Peter Jackson said a responsible developer would have sought adequate planning permission before carrying out the work.
He said: “I don’t think you’re treating local people with respect.” He also noted the developer still had to return to the council with plans for the second phase of the development – and asked what confidence the committee could have that they would be built correctly.
Councillor Keith Flunder said residents living in the Persimmon houses wouldn’t answer the door during a site visit due to fear. He said: “Those people who are now living in those houses, overlooking the other houses, are in fear – knowing this is coming here today – there’s a potential at the end of it all where we knock them down.”
The council’s head of development Ben Haywood told councillors: “Ultimately it’s a decision for members [of the planning committee] whether the relationship between properties is an acceptable one, and which residents could reasonably be expected to experience.”
He said despite the plans not being followed, officers were still recommending approval for retrospective planning permission. A Persimmon North West spokesperson said: “Planning permission for Pottery Gardens was granted by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council in December 2020.
“The application discussed by the planning committee last week sought non-material amendments to some existing homes in line with this planning permission. While the application was recommended for approval, this has been deferred by the planning committee to allow for further engagement with local residents.
“We fully appreciate the issues that have been raised and have therefore already written to residents requesting time to meet and agree solutions that address these concerns as soon as possible.”
A council spokesman said: “The planning application was considered by the Planning Applications Committee on March 9. Following their site visit and having been addressed by members of the public and the developer, the committee resolved to defer its decision, due to concerns over the impact on a number of existing neighbouring residents.
“At no time did the committee request the demolition of the new houses, but requested that officers, in consultation with the developer and local residents, consider whether mitigation measures could be secured to address their concerns. Consequently, the planning application will be presented back to the planning committee once this has been carried out.”