December 12 2013 Latest news:
Friday, August 16, 2013
A legal battle is looming over a ground-breaking scheme to help victims of coastal erosion in Waveney – after a council ruled out helping a family who believed they were eligible for support.
Retired architect Paul England thought he had secured a promise from Waveney District Council in 2010 to protect his family’s residential land-use rights on a vulnerable site near the crumbling cliffs at Easton Bavents – giving them the consent to build on a new plot of land nearby.
The agreement was set up under the government-funded Pathfinder scheme, which helps communities at risk of coastal erosion.
A chalet and a mobile home had been sited on the affected plot, known as The Retreat, until the caravan burned down in 2006 and the chalet was demolished in 2010 amid the threat of further erosion.
Although there was no planning permission for either building, Mr England said he understood that both had been occupied continuously for more than 10 years before the family bought the site in 2004.
But this week Waveney district council’s development control committee ruled that the chalet had never been used for residential purposes before 2004 and the property was not capable of being used as a home.
Members voted unanimously in favour of revoking the certificate of lawful use (CLU), which was issued to the England family in 2006 in respect of the residential use of the chalet and the mobile home at The Retreat.
The decision, which was based on fresh statements from friends and relatives of the previous owners of The Retreat, means the family will not qualify for compensation for the chalet under the Pathfinder scheme.
Mr England, who is acting on behalf of his children Charles, Beth and Molly, who own the affected site through their company Bailey Developments Ltd, said the family was now taking legal advice and he was investigating whether to take the matter to a judicial review.
He said they felt aggrieved at the decision of the development committee.
However, a spokesman for the Waveney Pathfinder project said its board had already agreed that compensation would not be provided for temporary homes – meaning the mobile home and chalet had already been ruled out of the project on separate grounds.
Speaking at Tuesday’s committee meeting, Waveney’s head of planning Philip Ridley told councillors that in 2010 he had written to residents of Easton Bavents whose properties were at immediate risk from coastal erosion, explaining the Pathfinder project and advising them that their residential rights would be protected if their homes fell in to the sea before they were relocated under the scheme.
Mr Ridley said the owners of The Retreat (the Englands) had received a letter confirming they would be part of the Pathfinder project and their residential rights would therefore be protected.
However, he said the certificate of lawful use that had established residency had now been called in to question.
“The revocation of this certificate of lawful use will mean the recipient of that letter will not be able to bring the matter forward because that matter will be revoked,” he added.
In 1968, planning permission was granted to The Retreat’s former owners, Gordon and June Reeder, to build a chalet on the site, subject to the condition that it was removed by May 31, 1973. Consent was not obtained to extend that period but the chalet was not removed.
In 2006, the England family applied to the council for a certificate of lawful use (CLU) in respect of the residential use of the chalet and a mobile home on the land. They claimed the residential use began at the chalet in 1968 and at the mobile home in the early 1970s.
Statements from Mrs Reeder, nearby landowner Peter Boggis, Mr T Simcox and Molly Burrows, of Bailey Developments Ltd, were submitted in support of the CLU application.
Mrs Reeder confirmed the properties had been on the land since the 1970s and rates and council tax had been paid on a regular basis, while Mr Boggis stated that the chalet had been continuously occupied for the last 55 years and the mobile home was used residentially for a continuous 24-year period.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Waveney’s principal legal services manager Nargis Sultan told members the authority had subsequently received information that the evidence provided in support of the 2006 CLU application was not accurate.
Ms Sultan presented statutory declarations from James and Clive Reeder, sons of the late Mr and Mrs Reeder, who owned The Retreat from 1969 to 2004. They stated that the family never lived at The Retreat and that it was not commercially let.
They said that, between 1969 and 2004, the chalet had no gas, insulation, sanitary facilities or kitchen, and it was connected to a septic tank – meaning it was not properly equipped for residential use.
A letter from Mr and Mrs Reeder’s solicitor Martin Prentice also stated that he had never written to them at The Retreat and he saw them regularly at the church in Stowmarket up until their deaths.
The meeting heard that council tax records also confirmed that The Retreat was subject to an empty property discount between the earliest recorded date of April 1, 1993 and March 31, 2004.
Ms Sultan said the council’s legal department had concluded that the evidence was compelling enough to revoke the CLU issued to the England family in 2006.