Elderly couple watch ‘dream home’ being torn down after losing planning row

An elderly couple watched as a bitter planning row ended with their dream home being torn down in front of them.

Ken and Barbara Mead, 81 and 77, say they have been ‘left penniless’ and reduced to living on a boat bought for them by their daughter and son-in-law, following their battle over a warehouse they had built in Sutton, Macclesfield.

Enforcement officers from Cheshire East Council have begun demolishing the building, saying the couple had breached planning permission by building it to the wrong specifications and later living in it.

A spokesman said evidence shows that it was always the couple’s ‘intention’ to live in it.

However, the family said it wanted to build the warehouse to rent out to make money and only moved in after becoming fed up with living on a canal boat when the £250,000 legal dispute ate up their funds.

They bought the plot of land in 2006 and, after permission for a bungalow was refused, permission was granted to build a warehouse five years ago.

But Cheshire East Council then said the building was unauthorised as it did not conform to specifications, something Ken disputes and he says the particular reasons for it have never been explained.

Unable to then rent it out and fed up of staying on the boat, the couple began living in the dormant warehouse in 2015 as it had kitchen and shower facilities.

The building did not have permission for residential use and the council took enforcement action – won in court – and demolition work on the warehouse began this week.

Ken, a retired builder, said: “We moved to Macclesfield to be near our daughter and young grandchildren, only to find ourselves in a five-year nightmare.

“We have been left penniless and without a home. We had a building and couldn’t do anything with it even though the council signed it off as a warehouse. We have lost everything.”

The couple, who have four grandchildren, estimate the costs of building the warehouse, at Bullocks Lane, and fighting the legal battle come to around £250,000.

Their original boat was sold to help fund their legal costs and their daughter and her husband, Susan and Arron Taylor, sold their home to buy them another to live on.

Ken and Barbara, a former nurse, moved out of the warehouse and on to the canal two weeks ago. They have put many of the possessions they have left up for sale.

Arron, a managing partner at Tytherington-based training company Optimality, claims the dispute can be traced to a council error.

He says planners originally gave permission for the warehouse to be built bigger than it should have been.

But the council is adamant that it has followed procedure correctly and enforcement notices issued in 2016 were vindicated by an independent planning inspector.

Macclesfield MP David Rutley has spoken with the council about Ken and Barbara’s case and they have also approached Councillor Janet Jackson, a member of the planning committee.

She said: “Mistakes have been made by the council and the individuals that have led to this situation.

“Hopefully the council can revise its view, negotiate with the family and find another outcome.”

A Cheshire East spokesman said: “The council had made it very clear to the owners that there was no planning permission for the erection of a dwelling and the building, which they had constructed, fell outside the scope of a permission for a warehouse.

“The owners chose to ignore the council’s advice and moved into the unauthorised dwelling.

“It was acknowledged by the owners’ agents as early as June 2013, that the building under construction fell outside the scope of the permission for a warehouse and, as such, may be the subject of formal action by the council.

"The site lies within the green belt, which has strict rules limiting development that can take place. The inspector found the council’s enforcement notices to be sound and fully justified.

“The appeal was dismissed. The inspector’s decision also made it very clear that evidence showed that the intention of the owners was always to use the building as a dwelling and not as a warehouse.

“On 15 January 2019, the owners pleaded guilty in court to their failure to comply with the requirements of the notices. Failure to comply with the requirements of an enforcement notice is a criminal offence.”

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