Release Date: 24 August 2012
At 11:00am on Thursday, 23 August 2012, officers from the Stroud District Council's planning enforcement team executed a warrant to enter a building known as the "Tool Shed" at Fourboys Garden Centre, Dursley Road, Woodfield, Dursley.
The building was supposed to be a single storey structure for business use, but without planning permission it had built with two storeys, and officers had received intelligence that its first floor was being used as a residential flat.
Phillip Skill, head of planning for Stroud District Council, said:
'In April, officers had requested access to the first floor, but the owner had delayed access several days. When an officer was finally allowed in, the first floor was sparsely furnished but did contain a fully fitted kitchen and appliances. Additionally, part of one of the rooms had been boarded off and officers suspected that it hid a bathroom. After this visit officers made several further attempts to gain access but were denied on each occasion.'
The council then approached Stroud Magistrates Court for a warrant to enter the building without giving notice, and the magistrate agreed that to give notice may allow the owner to remove the furniture and hide the bathroom.
Upon executing the warrant, officers found a fully furnished bedroom and lounge together with, as suspected, a fully tiled shower room - which had previously been hidden from them. The building was occupied by a couple related to the land owner.
The council is currently preparing legal papers to have the use cease and is considering whether to have the unauthorised building demolished. The owner will have a right of appeal against any notices the council issues.
In addition to blatant disregard for the planning system, the owner had also put his son and partner at significant risk as the building did not comply with building regulations. Some of the contraventions include lack of fire protection between the ground floor store (containing petrol driven equipment) and the flat, and woefully inadequate means of escape from the flat which involved scaffolding and planks from first floor French doors. The building does not appear to have an electrical safety certificate.
Mr Skill added:
'It is unusual for a council to seek a warrant to enter premises without notice, however we were concerned about not only the planning issues, but also the fact that the building had not been constructed as a residence should be, and consequently posed a serious safety risk. In my opinion, had there been a fire, the occupiers could well have suffered serious injury or even death. When a building is constructed without planning consent, the builder rarely pays any regard to structural and fire precautions either.'