Greengates Builders Merchants

Council Gone Power Mad!!!

Neighbours who revamped wasteland face £385 charge. A group of neighbours who transformed neglected wasteland near their homes into a garden complete with plants and decking have been told they may have to pay a £385 fee to the council.

The residents, who live on Smethurst Street in Heywood, Rochdale, also installed seats and planters on the land but did not get planning permission beforehand.

Rochdale Borough Council has said the group may now have to pay a statutory planning application fee.

The group, who do not own the land but spent £200 on the renovations, may also have to pay an annual £50 maintenance fee which they said they were happy to meet.

Previously people would use the land for fly-tipping and when people phoned the council to report it, nothing was done. They were even told the land was not owned by the council and no one knew who owned  it. Now suddenly they're saying they do own it.

Everyone who goes past comments on how nice the area looks compared to how it was before. The neighbours don't want ownership they just want it to look nice.

Steve Challinor, who carried out most of the work, said: "We worked hard on it and then we were told we've got to pay £385 because we've changed the use of the land. It's not like we've actually built anything on there."

The 42-year-old engineer, his wife Zara, 25, Ms Rawlinson along with other neighbours started the makeover in spring.

Ms Rawlinson has launched a petition against the charge.

Mark Widdup, from Rochdale Council, said: "We are currently in the process of establishing whether the work at Smethurst Street requires planning permission.

"If planning permission is required, a planning application fee of £385 is payable. This is a statutory fee set by central government. Fees are legally required for all planning applications, including those which are submitted by the council."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "Whilst we cannot comment on specific planning cases, it is clear we all benefit from enthusiastic people who care enough to make a positive difference to their area.

"Effective enforcement is important to maintaining the public's confidence in the planning system, but councils need to apply common sense and consider carefully when it is appropriate to use their discretionary powers."


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