Dursley garden centre claims council's raid was BBC TV stunt
12:01pm Wednesday 21st May 2014 in News
THE MANAGER of a Dursley garden centre has accused the council of taking advantage of the centre’s divergence from a planning application to carry out an “unnecessary” raid and enforcement order for the benefit of a BBC TV show.
Fourboys Garden Centre on Dursley Road was raided by Stroud District Council (SDC) in August 2012 after it was discovered that manager Bradley Winchle, 27, had been living in the newly-constructed warehouse with his girlfriend.
The permission granted only allowed the building for storage purposes but the second floor was discovered to be furnished and with a fitted kitchen and shower.
SDC issued an order saying the building must be demolished within six months, with the court-appointed raid captured by the BBC for TV show, The Planners.
Mr Winchle told the Gazette he had accepted they had done wrong by occupying the “tool shed” and had reverted the building to its original use.
However he claims SDC knew about the living quarters five months before when an officer visited the site and took pictures, with visits taking place several times afterwards.
The regular communication with the council makes Mr Winchle believe the raid was "over the top" and "probably for his (head of planning Phil Skill’s) TV career".
“It could have been done with a telephone call or an email. But instead of dealing with us they needed a camera crew, the police and a builder to do so.
“They didn’t deal with this in a reasonable way. It’s ridiculous.”
The enforcement notice was upheld at appeal, as was the refusal for planning permission to retain the building, but the council has now backed down 21 months later, saying the building can stay if reverted to the original planning permission, as the building is 1.4m too high.
While he is pleased they can keep the building, Mr Winchle claims the council could have issued the enforcement order to revert the building rather than raid it and order its demolition in the first place.
A SDC spokesman said officers were originally denied access to the building but when they finally gained access and found the living quarters, they were again prevented from inspecting the inside of the building without prior appointment, so were forced to take legal action.
“We suspected that the requirement to attend by appointment allowed the owner time to hide its true use,” he said.
“Aside from the planning breach, a fire downstairs could have risked serious injury for any occupants in the illegal dwelling as the structure had not been checked by a building control officer.
“As planning permission does exist for a building half its height, most people will agree that we are being reasonable in allowing the owner the opportunity to try and alter the illegal building so that it satisfies that requirement.
“If that proves to be impossible we always have the enforcement notice to fall back on.”