A police inspector has entered a ‘crazy, mixed mess’ of a planning saga to warn that a wall in a house in Bristol could cause a fatal accident.
A councilor said he had never known a policeman to intervene in a planning case, let alone an inspector.
The fate of the wall and of a house at 18 Talbot Road in Knowle built larger than permitted planning permission is hotly disputed.
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Neighbors claim plaintiff Edward Bech demolished their perfectly sound wall and its replacement rendered their garage unusable, wiping out £25,000 of the value of their home.
Another resident threatened a judicial review if the application was approved, saying it was invalid because the applicant was not the sole owner of the land, as he claimed.
Bristol South Borough Inspector Stephanie McKenna said the wall blocks the view of oncoming traffic, warning: “I fear that if the height of this wall is not lowered an accident will occur which could result in injury or loss of life.”
This view was supported by Knowle Ward Councilor Gary Hopkins, who likened the site to “the Baghdad compound” on “a busy road with a very vicious S-bend nearby”.
Yet Bristol City Council planning officers recommended approval after deciding access was safe – partly because the whirring of the electric gate alerted passing pedestrians that a car was approaching. They said that although the house is larger than what was approved in 2018, it is within policy.
Neighbors Joe Woodhouse and Sarah Trevor said the Land Registry confirmed they owned the wall that was knocked down, but Planning Execution Team Manager Nigel Butler told councilors he there was “no reason to believe” that Mr. Bech did not own all of the land included in the plans. He said the authority could not get involved in disputes related to party walls.
Development Control Committee member Cllr Chris Windows said at the February 23 meeting: “I’ve been on these committees for a number of years and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such a crazy, confusing mess. .”
Cllr Andrew Brown wasn’t convinced there was reason to deny the application, but was concerned about the message that approval would send to developers that they could build something “completely to scale” and then apply for retrospective approval.
The wall looked like an ‘accident waiting to happen’ to Cllr Paula O’Rourke, who asked if the committee had the power to force it down. The wall is more than two meters high. It should be less than 60 centimeters high to avoid blocking visibility.
Cllr Guy Poultney said: ‘I don’t recall ever seeing a police officer, let alone an inspector, write to a planning committee to say, ‘I’m afraid this is dangerous’.
“I look at him now and to me he doesn’t seem safe. We have a road officer who is an expert in this area and who tells us that it is safe. I really want to see it.
Members voted to visit the site before making a decision.
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