Majority of car hire firms near US air bases shown to have no planning permission
11:16 24 January 2014
Archant Â© 2013
A council has defended its planning policies after the majority of businesses in a thriving local sector were found to have no planning permission.
Six of the eight car rental businesses near RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath are operating without planning permission, with only one of these currently seeking retrospective planning permission having operated without it for months.
Two companies in the area have been renting cars for 20 and five years respectively without planning permission, and caused no problem to Forest Heath District Council.
A council spokeswoman said: “If we receive a complaint, or someone notifies us about a business which they believe is operating without planning permission, we will investigate it, but we would advise any new business to contact us to find out if they need planning permission to operate from their premises.”
Car rental firms attract lots of customers from personnel and visitors to the nearby air bases, with the likes of Enterprise – whose base at the Fiveways roundabout has planning permission – competing with local firms for business.
David Weston, who set Mildenhire up 30 years ago, is the other operator in the area with planning permission.
He said: “I think not having planning permission is a technicality. They’re providing a public service for people. We work with them and we’re glad they’re here.
“I don’t think the council could care less. I’d rather the councils fixed the roads instead, rather than worry about what these people are doing. They keep things ticking over.”
Mildenhire also runs Britannia car rental at the Bird in Hand hotel in Beck Row, which does not have planning permission but has been a car rental site for 30 years.
Low Cost Car Rentals has been renting cars in the area for around 20 years, and employs 10 people at its base on Mildenhall Industrial Estate.
Director Douglas Ivie said: “The council have never said anything – they know what we do, they see our signs all the time. We’re not hiding. I pay £12,000-a-year rates – we pay a lot of money. I’ve seen so many companies come and go, I’m not worried about it. I know what it takes to make it work and nobody’s set up to run it like we are.”
Marcus Ballard has run Reliable Rentals from the Harlequin Business Park in Kenny Hill for five years.
He thought he had planning consent having moved the business to the industrial estate from his home in Beck Row. He says the council took enforcement action at Beck Row after it received complaints, and council officers have also made him take down a sign at his new premises.
He said: “I’d rather see people earn a living than claim a living. It’s normally something like planning that gets in the way.”
Nigel Warin runs NSA Rentals, which has applied for retrospective planning permission at Moss Edge Farm in Beck Row after Forest Heath refused an application to base it at his nearby home. Mr Warin declined to comment as his application is on the verge of being decided.
First Choice Auto Rentals and Steve’s Car Hire, which do not have planning permission, declined to comment.