WEST Berkshire Council has admitted the only way to stop an unauthorised development in Hungerford from being completed is to take the developer to the High Court.
The district councillor in charge of planning says a judicial review would be needed to try and overturn the planning inspector’s decision to allow two homes to be built at Upper Eddington.
Hilary Cole said she was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling and, while she could not commit to the council taking the developer to court, encouraged residents to carry on the fight.
Consent for a two-house development at Upper Eddington was originally granted to Waddington Forbes Homes Ltd of Cookham, despite objections, in 2012.
But last year, angry Eddington residents demanded action, claiming that the developer was ignoring planning conditions.
The developer chose to introduce an intrusive stone wall and add an ‘overbearing’ extra storey without getting consent first.
West Berkshire Council issued an enforcement notice last September, warning Waddington Forbes the development was unauthorised and to comply or pull it down.
However, the developer promptly appealed the enforcement notice – and won.
The decision, published earlier this month, was greeted with disbelief and dismay among residents of Upper Eddington and neighbouring streets and led councillors to say a mockery had been made of its planning policies.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News this week, Mrs Cole said: “I hate retrospective applications, but unfortunately the planning inspector has allowed it and I’m extremely disappointed.”
Mrs Cole could not say exactly how much the council had spent trying to stop the development, but said: “There are not inconsiderable costs involved with fighting this.
“We do not undertake these things lightly because we are aware we’re spending council tax payer’s money, but on the other hand we have to fight for our policies and what we believe is right.
“People will always try it on, but the message from us has got to be, don’t.
“Just because something has been built it does not mean it will automatically get retrospective planning permission.”
But Mrs Cole would not commit to a judicial review, saying: “We have recorded our disappointment but it is my view that we would really have to justify that action for two homes.
“However that is not to say a group of interested residents could not do it. In fact, I would support them.”
At the planning committee meeting last year, Mrs Cole (Con, Chieveley) said: “It seems there was an assumption we would approve it just because work has started.
“If we allowed this we would be setting a precedent.
“People can’t flout planning conditions and get away with it.
“We need to send a strong message to other developers.”
Clive Hooker (Con, Downlands) said: “I have never seen a construction that has been more offensive or overbearing.”
And Howard Bairstow (Con, Falkland) warned afterwards: “We might just as well not have a planning committee, or rules, if they’re not enforced.
“It will be a free-for-all and I’m sure other developers are watching with interest if they’re thumbing their nose at planning officers.”