Ashington families 'punished' over garden projects

A crackdown by planning chiefs in Northumberland has left families feeling ‘punished’ for improving their gardens.

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 11:30 am
Households in Ashington have been told they face action over improvements to their gardens.

Households in Ashington are the latest to find their attempts to spruce up their yards examined by bosses at Northumberland County Council.

But at least one is promising defiance after being told she could face action if she can’t prove her home project was completed in line with local authority rules.

“I’m not taking my decking out – it’s been there forever and it’s not harming anyone,” said Angela Lee, of Bolsover Street, whose upgrades were reported to the county council as a possible breach of regulations, prompting similar probes into her neighbours’ properties.

Angela Lee, one of those whose garden upgrades were reported to the council.

“There’s places that look like crack dens, the back lanes look like bombs have been dropped on them.

“Should they really be hounding people who have spent time and money making their gardens look nice?”

She added: “We feel punished – there’s a house across the road which is the nicest in the street and they’re getting wrong, but there’s others where the weeds are chest-high.”

Angela, a grandmother who finished treatment for cancer shortly before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, has been told she must prove the decking in her front garden was installed more than four years ago or submit an application for retrospective permission.

If not, she faces the prospect of enforcement action by the council.

A hot tub and covering gazebo previously at the front of the property, which planning chiefs also objected to, have since been moved to the back yard, which is not subject to such strict development regulations.

Labour opposition county councillor Caroline Ball said: “Covid has made many people reassess and find ways to make better use of their outdoor space and, for many, the front garden is the only piece of garden they have.

“The council seems unable to make any progress in making people with unkempt gardens tidy them up.

“But they are requiring other residents to apply for planning permission when they are making an effort to make their garden more useful and attractive.”

The approach has also invited comparisons with the ‘Shedgate’ row in Lynemouth earlier this year, in which more than 70 homes were told they could be hit with bills of £206 each to secure formal permission for sheds and outbuildings, many of which had stood for years.

A spokesman for Northumberland County Council said planning permission was needed for structures, such as a gazebo, and decking in a front garden.

He added: “In April 2021, the enforcement team received a report of an alleged planning breach at this address.

“When we receive such a report we are statutorily required to investigate, usually with an initial site visit to determine whether planning permission is actually required.

“A site visit was carried out in May which found that decking and a gazebo had been erected without planning permission.

“The owner has been invited to submit a retrospective planning application or remove the unauthorised structures.

“The development does not benefit from permitted development rights because it is forward of the front elevation and we have also made contact with other properties in the street with similar structures.”