It’s a stretch – but garden gym can stay

A garden gym and office in Redland can stay despite being built “slightly larger” than approved plans and sparking fury in neighbours. 

A home office and gym was built in the garden of a basement flat on Elliston Road in Redland. The outbuilding was under threat after Bristol City Council planning officers found it was 80cm larger than the plans they gave permission for.

Several neighbours wrote to the council planning department urging them to force the building to be knocked down. But councillors on the development control A committee voted to approve retrospective planning permission on Wednesday, July 5.

Green Councillor Tom Hathway said: “Someone has built something that they don’t have approval for. Does this not suggest that you can kind of build whatever size you like, and then apply for a retrospective planning permission if you breach what you were granted permission for?”

Peter Westbury, planning coordinator, replied: “The answer is you can. You can. If you build without planning permission, you’re building at your own risk. But there’s no powers for the local planning authority — unless it’s a dangerous structure, but that’s normally done under building regulations anyway — typically under planning there’s nothing to stop you building and then applying for retrospective permission. I wish that was not the case, but it is.”

If the committee had voted to refuse retrospective permission, the homeowner could have been forced to knock down the outbuilding. But the householder  could appeal to the government planning inspector, who might decide to overturn the decision and grant permission.

Other concerns of residents included a sign on the outside wall, which has since been taken down, and fears the building was being used commercially. Some also criticised the choice of building materials.

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service