West Wales News Review — analysis with a sustainability slant

Approval for ‘detrimental’ industrial-style building in Ffairfach back garden

A planning decision last week was quite disturbing, I thought. It may well be correct, in a technical sense, but still disturbing. This was a case of the applicants’ rights trumping those of neighbours , especially the elderly lady next door. There are, we know, unscrupulous builders who target the elderly and fleece them. This is a different sort of case, in which the loss of amenity imposed on a long-standing resident was judged less important than the right of the applicants to construct a 50-square metre industrial building, 3.76 metres to the roof line, with grey steel-clad walls three metres high and nine metres long, right along the boundary with their neighbour’s garden.

Adverse impact on neighbours is a legitimate planning issue, but the weight accorded to it varies hugely. In this case, the impact on neighbours was disregarded. The planning officer argued that there were some commercial buildings nearby, that some people had double garages – but these points are irrelevant to the siting of this particular industrial-style building (which is entirely for domestic use, the planning officer stressed).

The applicants previously had permission from the local authority to put the building, far more appropriately, on the other side of their garden – but it would have been on top of a water main, a fact evidently not known to the planning department when approval was given.

The report is in the Carmarthenshire Herald, September 30, p.8

It will be big, steel-framed and steel profile-clad above concrete block walls, but it won’t be in an industrial or commercial location.

It will be in a back garden in Ffairfach, Llandeilo, to the distress of next door neighbour Mrs Annie Dorothy Jones.

Mr OEW James and Mrs HM James, of 5 Heol Myrddin, already had permission for a garage-cum-store, 9 metres long, 5.5 metres wide and 3.76 metres to the roof ridge, but on the other side of their garden, where it would still have been evident to neighbours but probably not so dominant.

Water main problem

Unfortunately the planning permission ignored the fact that the steel-roofed garage would be built over a water main, and so construction could not carry on.

Mr and Mrs James put in another application, to build the garage/store on the other side of their garden, right behind their semi-detached house and alongside the back garden of Mrs Jones next door in no.7. Even so, it still fell foul of the rule forbidding development for four metres either side of a water main.

Dŵr Cymru came to the rescue with a letter to Mr and Mrs James, which planning officer Graham Noakes reported to Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning committee on Tuesday (September 27). The letter, said Mr Noakes, agreed that the garage could go up only 3.5 metres from the water main. The cladding over the steel frame might be a trifle closer, the committee heard, but the steel columns on the nearest side would be 3.5 metres from the main.

Next-door garden overshadowed

For Mrs Jones next door, the permission means a nine-metre-long wall, three metres high to the eaves, adjoining the eastern side of her garden, shading it, overshadowing it, and not providing an aesthetically pleasing outlook. She engaged planning consultants JCR Planning of Cross Hands to present her case.

Craig Jones of JCR Planning, also representing another neighbour, had submitted a nine-page report, pointing out that the new building would be on the flood plain, and rain water would not be able to run off fast enough. The structure would be right on the boundary with Mrs’ Jones’s garden, and overbearing, wrote Mr Jones, “because the existing hedgerow/wall has already been removed”.

The building would be detrimental to the residential area, detrimental to the amenity enjoyed by neighbours, and not in accordance with the Local Development Plan, claimed Mr Jones, because it does not conform with or enhance the character and appearance of the site, does not use appropriate materials, has a big impact on neighbours, and does not provide for adequate disposal of surface water, a particular problem because of its flood-plain location.

Detrimental to neighbours

Despite this catalogue of reasoned objections, Mr Noakes recommended approval and the majority of the committee agreed. Cllr Anthony Jones (Labour, Llandybie) and Cllr Kevin Madge (Labour, Garnant) both felt sympathy for neighbours, though. “This is detrimental to the neighbours, no doubt,” said Cllr Madge. Cllr Anthony Jones was concerned at the large area of the building – almost 50 square metres – and asked why it had to be so big.

Why indeed? To store a caravan, the committee was told. No one commented that caravans are designed to cope with outdoor conditions.

Craig Jones of JCR Planning had already pointed out that the footprint of the garage/store was “bigger than the house”, and also wondered why the building’s roller shutter door would be three metres high. “The excessive height of the proposed structure suggests a storage use for ‘items’ other than domestic”, Mr Jones had written in his report.

‘Well-known failings of current enforcement procedures’

He was not happy with a proposed planning condition to limit the use of the garage/store to domestic purposes only, stating that “The Local Authority’s reliance on a condition that seeks to prevent a future use will of course be dogged by the well-known failings of current enforcement procedures. Any incremental development away from domestic use will be difficult to monitor and enforce.”

This barbed comment led planning officer Mr Noakes to reply that “The stated lack of faith in the Authority’s Planning Enforcement Section is disappointing, particularly as the objector’s agent is one of the agents who regularly corresponds with the Authority, including an interaction with the enforcement officers”.

Mr Noakes had concluded that “the proposed garage is of a scale and design that is acceptable in a residential setting and will not have a significantly detrimental effect upon the amenity of the occupiers of the neighbouring dwellings”. Natural Resources Wales were not concerned about flooding risk, he said, leading him to advise the committee to approve the plan.





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