Apr 12 2011 By Jack Griffith
Brian Duffy carried out his own painstaking investigation into retrospective applications and illegal builds, with revealing results.
A LIFELONG Hayes resident is calling for stricter planning controls after carrying out his own painstaking investigation into retrospective applications and illegal builds, with revealing results.
A complaint to the council about a porch build in his neighbourhood six months ago led Brian Duffy to build an clear picture of the number of retrospective planning applications – which are lodged after construction on a property has started – in the Barnhill, Charville, Botwell and Yeading wards.
Meticulously combing through planning documents on the council website, ticking off each street as he went and categorising the information by type of development, he found that there had been almost 200 retrospective applications in the last 8 years, with more than 60 per cent eventually getting approved.
The former truck driver fears that this could be just the tip of the iceberg.
"It doesn't take a lot to work out what is going on, and it is totally wrong. I have no doubt that there are many others slipping under the net. People are now building in the hope that they don't get caught, but if they do they will get away with it because they can apply for retrospective planning permission, at extra cost to the taxpayer."
Mr Duffy, of Goshawk Gardens, Hayes, raised his concerns about increasing bids for back garden outhouses, intended as utility spaces. At a planning meeting last month, the owner of a house in Silverdale Road, Hayes, was denied permission to build a detached outbuilding, for use as a gym.
The homeowner was forced to tear down one he had previously built after pressing ahead with construction and later having two retrospective applications refused.
Those applications stated that it would be used as a playroom, but petitioning neighbours and ward councillors argued that it had been lived in, a claim that was denied.
The former truck driver added: "The general contempt that some people have for planning laws infuriates me. The thing is, it is hard to prove and some people can't be bothered to go to the lengths I have gone to, but a lot of people are frustrated. My fear is that it will eventually become the norm to start first, gain permission later."
Mr Duffy's findings shocked John McDonnell MP (Labour, Hayes and Harlington), who is fearful of a 'planning free for all' in his constituency.
Jean Palmer, corporate director for planning and environment services, said: "The council treats all planning applications the same and makes a decision on the assumption that no building currently exists, so applying for retrospective planning permission does not give an applicant any advantage.
"Ultimately, the council has the power to order a building which doesn't have planning permission to be demolished, and to prosecute the owners if they don't do comply with the order."
In December, the Gazette reported on works at the nineteenth century Westfield Cottages, in Harlington, despite an outstanding planning application. In that case, the council stopped construction.
Have you suffered as the result of an illegal build? Are you critical of retrospective planning applications? Email firstname.lastname@example.org