Garage conversion row escalates to High Court

Robin Byford who is being taken to the High Court by Suffolk Coastal District Council over planning

Robin Byford who is being taken to the High Court by Suffolk Coastal District Council over planning permission to turn his garage into a house.

A father from Suffolk has spoken of his shock upon discovering the planning authority was taking him to the High Court over proposals to turn a garage into a home for his daughter.

Robin Byford, 61, said Suffolk Coastal District Council’s (SCDC) continuing opposition to his small- scale plans in Kesgrave was a “ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money”. SCDC however, claims the case raises “important issues of principle”.

The garage is part of a property in Hall Road that Mr Byford bought as an investment in 2004, and on which he hoped to build a starter home for his children. Since 2013, he has submitted eight applications in an attempt to satisfy planners’ objections based on the perceived harm caused to the appearance and surrounding woodland. He even went so far as to submit plans for an underground home, which he said the council refused to acknowledge.

The garage proposals, by involving an existing building, were felt to be unobjectionable on the previous grounds. Although SCDC refused it in June 2014, Mr Byford’s appeal to the Planning Inspectorate was granted in January after it deemed the development to be in accordance with the council’s local plan and rejected its grounds for refusal.

Having finally been granted the permission he had sought for his daughter, he said he was therefore “horrified” to be told this week SCDC was taking him and the Planning Inspectorate to the High Court.

“It’s been an absolute nightmare,” he said. “The council has been negative and obstructive throughout.”

He has highlighted applications elsewhere in the district where far larger applications have been approved in countryside locations, including a development for 26 homes in an area of outstanding natural beauty in Wenhaston.

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SCDC also contested appeals made against its plans to include 2,000 homes at Adastral Park in Martlesham Heath in its core strategy, despite objectors’ concerns over the impact on the Deben Estuary.

“I can’t understand why they support housing in these places but are taking me to court over something like this,” Mr Byford said. “It will be a ridiculous waste of taxpayers’ money. They are contesting the Government’s decision, so either way the taxpayer loses.”

A spokesman for SCDC said while the authority may accept its decisions being overturned “because a planning inspector’s assessment of the relevant factors is different to the “council’s,” in this case “we believe that the planning inspector has failed to apply the relevant planning polices and national guidance, and the decision is therefore unlawful”.

“Suffolk Coastal District Council has decided to challenge the inspector’s decision in the High Court because the case raises important issues of principle concerning the protection of the countryside, which are relevant in many parts of our district – not just this location,” the spokesman added.