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100 flout planning laws, just one pays the price
MORE than 100 rogue landowners and developers have broken planning laws in Worcester over the last year – but only one person was prosecuted for it.
One resident demolished a wall in Battenhall’s Conser-vation Area but avoided court action.
In another case, landowners allowed a listed building to become badly vandalised.
In a separate complaint, a developer was given permission to create 10 student flats in Bath Road as long as he provided car parking spaces and bin storage with it, but he then went on to build just the properties, angering council officials.
Councillor Paul Denham, a planning committee member and deputy leader of the Labour group, said: “The council is very poor at enforcing all sorts of things.
“When it comes to planning enforcement, it’s important the public feel people can’t get away with it.
“People are less likely to do things wrong if they believe they’ll be punished.
“For a city the size of Worcester I’m surprised there’s so few prosecutions.”
Worcester City Council ’s planning enforcement team had complaints over 279 alleged breaches during 2011/12, but only 118 have found to be valid so far.
In 22 cases, the council allowed the developer to carry on despite no planning permission being in place, while 27 breaches were deemed too expensive or time consuming to investigate further.
In 69 cases, complaints were resolved by negotiation, while the rest are still being examined.
Critics say the data is sending out the wrong message to developers.
The only person taken to court was Phillip Gunwhy, of 58 Timberdine Avenue, Battenhall, who was ordered to pay £1,103 in March after repeated complaints over the untidy appearance of his property.
His neighbour Ken Tolley, aged 75, who has lived in the street 15 years, said: “I’m surprised only one person has been prosecuted.
“The house is something to behold – it’s awful. I’ve seen rats at the back.”
Other notorious breaches include Woodside in Lark Hill, a listed office building which was allowed to become badly vandalised once Heart of England stopped using it as a base.
The council served an enforcement notice ordering it be tidied up, and the site has since been sold to a new private owner, who has told the authority he will comply with the demand.
The man who demolished the wall in Greenways, Battenhall, has now rebuilt it but has not been prosecuted for knocking it down in the first place.
Jonathan Lester, from planning enforcement, said: “Often you can find a solution by negotiation. In Greenways we managed to get the wall rebuilt by using a tidy up notice, so our patience paid off.
“Sometimes you might get a situation where a developer has built something but refuses to submit a planning application, and in some cases the building might be acceptable to the council anyway and a prosecution would not be worth pursuing.”