By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
A COUPLE claims they have been abused and threatened and their home attacked with hunting rifles during a 17-year row over an unlawful extension next door.
Derek and Heather Simpson’s ‘grief and stress’ was revealed as councillors debated whether to give the structure retrospective planning permission.
The large, ground floor extension to the house, on Joel Lane in Hyde, was the subject of an epic battle between the previous owners and council officers. It has been going on since 2002.
The extension was given legal approval by Tameside’s planning committee last week by just one vote, prompting furious objector Mr Simpson to threaten to turn it ‘open plan’ by knocking part of the extension down himself.
The previous owner, who carried out the work, was not present – or named – at the meeting.
Current owner Paul Travis, who moved in with his family six months ago, spoke to support the application.
There was no suggestion of wrongdoing on Mr Travis’ part. The Simpsons insist they bear no ill-feeling towards Mr Travis and his family. They say they blame the council.
Mr Simpson, who lives at Hillside Farm next door with Heather, said the extension has caused them ‘17 years of grief and stress’.
“We’ve been threatened, abused, our lives have been endangered and we’ve come under firearms attacks in our home from high-velocity hunting rifles because we object to this,” he told councillors.
“You need to visualise this monstrosity standing over 17ft high in our garden.
“Our lives are in turmoil and all the chance of happiness for my wife and I, after a combined working lifespan of more than 90 years, has been stripped from us.”
When the committee’s decision was announced, Mr Simpson said: “I hope you like an open plan kitchen.
“I’m threatening to knock the wall down that’s in our garden illegally.”
The meeting was told an extension was originally approved around 2002 but when built was taller than in plans submitted to the council – and made of ‘exposed blockwork’ rather than bricks.
A further application seeking permission for the structure was later refused.
An enforcement notice was issued, demanding the home’s former owner to demolish the extension.
On appeal to the planning inspectorate in 2003, the order was revised to state that the owner needed to reduce the height of the extension to the level originally approved.
That was never fully done and the council did not follow through with enforcement over the subsequent 16 years.
Due to changes in planning regulations, the height of the extension, if it was built today, would be within acceptable limits.
Current owner Mr Travis said he had no idea about the enforcement notice when he bought the house.
“We’re law abiding citizens, we moved into this house and we’ve been lied to by a number of people, we did not put the extension up and we’re absolutely shocked to find what we have walked into,” he told councillors.
Mr Travis said his family wanted to ‘make the best of it’ by rendering the side wall of the extension and putting a Juliet balcony on the first floor.
“Moving into 123 Joel Lane should have been the happiest time of our lives,” he added.
“The whole thing just turned into an absolute nightmare for me and my family. If we’d have known, we’d never have bought the property.”
Development manager Martyn Leigh said the application had a “complicated history”, but recommended approval.
“Unfortunately, we’ve got some confusion here in that officers consider the height of the extension that is now actually there is broadly in line with what was originally approved,” Mr Leigh said.
Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Simpson said she had no problem with Mr Travis and his family.
She said she blamed the council for its failure to follow through on the enforcement notice.
“It’s made a mockery of the process,” she added.
Mr Simpson added: “They could cover the wall with gold leaf if they want, we are still stuck with it in our garden.”
A town hall spokesman said: “Tameside council is mindful that this has been a sensitive case to process given the complex planning history and strong objections received.
“It is for this reason that the application was referred to speakers’ panel for consideration.
“On May 29, the council concluded that the extension is now acceptable in planning terms having had regard to all relevant material planning considerations including current adopted policies and guidance.
“Consequently it resolved to approve the application.”