There’s been another reversal for the Penarth grandmother who’s been fighting a long-drawn out battle with the planning authorities for the right to continue to live in 34A Plassey Street – the home that she owns.
Penarth Town Council’s planning committee had originally supported an application from Mrs Joy Atkinson for “change of use” of what had been an “artist’s studio” to a “single dwelling house” in order to regularise what had been an informal arrangement.
Although Penarth councillors had supported her application they were overruled by the Vale of Glamorgan who refused planning permission for change of use – on the grounds, amongst others, that the property didn’t have enough “amenity space” – i.e. a courtyard or garden.
The Vale Council’s decision meant Mrs Atkinson would have to leave her own home. The council issued an Enforcement Order to ensure she did just that. She was given until September 2016 to move out or face legal action which, she says, could ultimately mean imprisonment.
Mrs Atkinson – a qualified artist and designer who works as a cleaner and nursery nurse – appealed against the Vale of Glamorgan’s decision to the ultimate arbiter – the Planning Inspectorate – but she lost her appeal .
Even so, did not have to pay the appeal costs because the Planning Inspectorate found that her appeal had “not been unreasonable”.
Mrs Atkinson says she had also been to see Stephen Doughty (Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth) three times – twice with her daughter and once by herself .
Mrs Atkinson said Doughty had told her he would do what he could and would also involve the local Labour Assembly Member Vaughan Gething – but in the end neither of them had done anything.
She has however received the support of a number of local residents and neighbours who signed a petition supporting her original planning application. Her daughter and grandchildren also live in Penarth and although Mrs Atkinson frequently does child-minding for them, they don’t have enough room in their own home to accommodate her.
Still with nowhere to go and nowhere else to live – and with the September deadline drawing nearer – Mrs Atkinson turned to a local architect to see whether the objections of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s planning officers could somehow be met by making alterations to the property.
She has now submitted a new plan to the Vale of Glamorgan Council which proposes demolishing the back-end of the building in which she lives in order to create the “amenity space” which the Vale planning officers say it lacks.
The scheme would involve losing an upstairs bedroom and part of a second downstairs bedroom – just to create empty “amenity space” which Mrs Atkinson says she doesn’t need or want.
Meanwhile paradoxically the Vale Council – whilst arguing on one hand that her home is substandard – has nevertheless set her Council Tax Banding at “Band D” – the average for a 3 bedroom semi-detached in the area.
This week Penarth Town Council’s planning committee was consulted about her new planning application .
The chairman Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) reminded members that they had supported Mrs Atkinson’s original planning application made in January 2014 for “change of use” but the Vale Council had decided not to, and the Planning Inspectorate had subsequently supported the Vale decision .
Cllr Thomas said the Inspectorate had emphasised an issue of “overlooking” at the boundary with Patrick’s newsagents. “That problem still remains” he said . [PDN Note: In fact frosted-glass has been installed in side-facing windows ‘overlooking’ Patrick’s] .
Cllr Thomas said “It’s a difficult one. We should accept the views of the Inspectorate and the Vale and say that the problems are still there and those matters have not been resolved and therefore it does not merit support”.
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) aid “I don’t think we should be in the business of supporting sub-standard housing. It’s sub-standard by nature of the fact it does not provide all the essential requirements . In my view we should not agree to the application”.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) said he had made “representations on behalf of the person that’s living there, that retrospective planning permission was withdrawn for”.
Cllr Roberts said “the Vale have some sympathy with the person and had given quite a long enforcement notice period to try and allow the person to find somewhere else”.
Cllr Roberts alleged that the occupant had bought the property and moved in with clear planning application refusal . He wondered whether the new application was what he called “a deliberate attempt to cloud the issue” . Cllr Roberts said “What we can’t get away from is that we have our professional planning officers in the Vale and an Inspector – and the inspector being more adamant than the Vale”.
Cllr Thomas pointed out that the Planning Inspector had said he was sympathetic to the situation.
Cllr Roberts (who is a “twin-hatted” member of the Vale of Glamorgan planning committee) said “we would be flying in the face of the experts” – and the Penarth Council planning committee needed take account of its own “credibility”.
Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said the public would be looking at the this and saying “ last time you agreed to this and now you’re not agreeing to it” – but, Cllr Williams said, “I think this is quite legitimate in this case. We have extra information this time which we didn’t have first time”.
Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines) said he thought the committee “had the balance about right. Unless there has been a significant change .. you can’t go against what an inspector has said . That would not be correct practice I feel sure.”
Adding that the situation was “very regrettable“, Cllr Rapier said he supported refusal.
The Penarth Council planning committee is now to recommend refusal of the planning application to alter the property – but the final decision will be made by the Vale of Glamorgan Council .