Posted: 12.11.21 at 16:53 by Charlotte Lillywhite
A mum who spent five years battling to build a home extension has finally been given the go-ahead after Government planning inspectors overturned a council decision - for the second time.
The inspector branded Maldon District Council “unreasonable” and said the authority gave no “tangible or objective evidence” for throwing out Miss Wiseman’s plans.
He accused the council of giving “contrived reasons for refusal, largely based on the concerns of objectors”.
Miss Wiseman, 55, told Nub News: “I can’t ever forgive what has happened to us at the hands of councillors because they have put our family through hell. I feel we’ve been bullied.
“Their views were not based on fact.
“We’ve had to live on a building site during the pandemic and been threatened with enforcement action. It made me feel suicidal.”
Miss Wiseman’s ordeal began in January 2016, when she submitted a planning application to carry out works to her home on Washington Road, Maldon, including a single-storey rear extension and single-storey front extension incorporating a loft conversion.
After originally being turned down by planning officers, she resubmitted the application to propose the same rear extension, loft conversion, a reduced front extension and an extra parking space.
Miss Wiseman, a senior pensions administrator, wanted to extend her four-bedroom home into a five-bed to accommodate her three children and two stepchildren, after meeting her new partner following her divorce in 2012.
“They were sleeping on camp beds which wasn’t viable long-term,” she said.
Despite planning officers recommending the application for approval, it was rejected by district councillors.
However, in February 2017, the council’s decision was overturned by a Government inspector, who said the alterations were “proportionate” and would not be an “incongruous change to the street scene”.
In January 2020, Miss Wiseman’s builder left the job partway through due to personal reasons.
This left her needing to apply for planning permission again - this time retrospectively - as he had veered from the original consent.
Once again, the application was recommended for approval by officers, but thrown out by district councillors in December 2020, during a meeting in which they were warned by the chief planning officer that they were taking a “dangerous approach”.
Government inspectors overturned the council’s decision again in September this year.
Miss Wiseman has been left with a part-finished extension and a process delayed by lockdown.
“The house wasn’t watertight - every time it rained we had rain pouring down our walls - we didn’t have any heating and we were desperate,” she said.
“Even though I was going to appeal, we were in a national lockdown and death rates were going through the roof, I received an enforcement letter in February this year saying I have 28 days to put my home back to the way it should have been built.”
Miss Wiseman was granted retrospective planning permission on appeal.
But she added: “I can never get my life back, my family will never get the home we were meant to have while our children were still living here.
"My stepson Tom, who is 16, came to live with us full-time during lockdown and has never had a room with a door or carpet on the floor."
She is particularly concerned by the role played by Maldon Town Council’s planning committee, as the applications were only discussed by district councillors after being called in for debate by town councillors.
One member of the committee, Councillor Tony Shrimpton, is Miss Wiseman’s neighbour who she said objected to the plans.
“How can you have this councillor who’s living next door but one to me be completely neutral and come into the process with a clear mind?
“Councillors should go in with a balanced view of what’s going on, so they’re not swayed one way or another.
“Unfortunately, Councillor Shrimpton is a neighbour and has a vested interest in keeping the neighbours happy - he was never going to support us.”
Another neighbour, she added, distributed letters to residents to “put a stop” to the extension.
“The only reason there was so much public unrest was because things like this scared people in the neighbourhood,” she said.
A spokesperson for Maldon Town Council said: “Planning committee minutes are a public record of what happened at a particular meeting and these are available on our website.”
Miss Wiseman said the process has taken so long that she will soon have no children living at home.
“We had a grandson over two years ago, too, and we’ve not been able to have him over,” she added.
“We’ve not been able to do what normal grandmothers and grandfathers would because the home is fraught with dangers for him.
“We’ve now got to find the money to put it right as prices have gone up.
“It saddens me as a mum and a nan because, due to councillors’ actions, this family’s stresses have been exacerbated to a point of breaking.
“It is a wonder we were ever able to survive and remain sane.”
A spokesperson for Maldon District Council said: “Whilst the central area planning committee is bound by the same policies as planning officers, it is not bound to follow the officer recommendations and can give its own weight to the various material considerations.
“In this instance, the committee did not agree with the officer’s recommendation and considered that the applications were in conflict with the council’s adopted policies.
“Whilst the council respects the planning inspectors’ decisions to allow the appeals, it is disappointing that the inspector, when looking at the most recent appeal, considered that the council had acted unreasonably.
“The council always seeks to make a balanced decision based on policies and relevant material considerations.”
Nub News asked Maldon District Council how much local taxpayers’ money was spent dealing with Mrs Wiseman’s planning applications.
It replied: “The council did not spend any money on dealing with either of these appeals.”
Nub News has now submitted a Freedom of Information request to the council, asking for a detailed breakdown of all public monies spent on the applications.
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