An elderly man is frustrated that nothing can be done about his neighbor’s oversized garden office, even though it violates building codes.
Ian Adams, 88, of Whitehouse Road, Woodcote, says the view of his garden was marred by the wooden building next door.
The 88-year-old widower complained to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, which confirmed it was an “unauthorized development” but refused to even undertake a site visit.
This follows a decision by the council earlier this year to change its rules on enforcing planning violations due to staff shortages.
Mr Adams, a retired publisher who lost his wife Marianne in 2020, says the problem began in August when neighbor Stuart Walker approached him about his plans to construct the building near their shared border.
He said: “He’s a pretty nice guy and he said he’d like to build a garden office and ‘I want to put it behind your log home.’
“I said I couldn’t say much as long as it conforms to planning regulations. In October they started building the thing and I noticed it was quite big so I started planning right away.
“I told them what was going on and that it was in a very early stage and that if they got here in time they might save him some trouble if he had to dismantle the thing.
“I expected them to show up next week, but that didn’t happen.”
Mr Adams said the council’s planning officials did not appear keen to intervene, but he insisted and they eventually agreed to assign a case number.
However, still nothing happened and the building was erected. It is about 3m high, 4m wide.
Mr Adams said that after months of no action from the council, he hired surveyor Suzanne M. Scott to help him.
She researched and wrote to the Council that the building was in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and was too large to be covered by approved development rights, which in certain cases allow building without planning permission.
She said: “Within an AONB, the permitted development rights are so restricted that a floor area of no more than 10m² is permitted if it is further than 20m from an original house wall.
“In short, a garden outbuilding on this site, which is so close to the borders of two neighbors, is not legal under the approved planning rights and should have been the subject of a planning application.
“The back garden is a very special part of my client’s home which he tries to maintain to the high standards set by his late wife.
“It gives him great pleasure to look out from both the kitchen and living room windows onto the garden that she remembers as being tended to. This prospect is now clouded by the garden office being too large and too close.”
Mr Adams said: “It’s too big, it’s too high and it’s too close to my limit.
“I had every reason to expect a site visit in the hope that the person who came would say, ‘Oh my God, I see what you mean,’ like everyone else.” The council confirmed, that no planning application has been submitted, but he will not take any enforcement action.
Rob Cramp, senior planning enforcement officer, said he acknowledged that while the “unauthorized development” had “local visual impact” on Mr Adams’ “amenities”, it did not cause “sufficient planning damage” to warrant an on-site visit .
Mr Adams said: “They finally decide, ‘at the end of the day we can avoid a site visit’ and that was the end.
“I did everything I could. Planning told me I could go to the ombudsman but I have no idea what that means.
“I don’t like the idea of getting into a fight with my neighbor. I don’t want war, I want to emphasize the ineffectiveness of planning. I think that’s a pretty strong case to illustrate that with.”
Mr Walker was unwilling to say anything other than saying the council had told him he didn’t need planning permission.
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