Care home extends car park without permission

PUBLISHED: 10:07 03 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:25 06 May 2010

Mr and Mrs Grant in their garden overlooking the car aprk

Mr and Mrs Grant in their garden overlooking the car aprk

A CARE home has extended its car park without planning permission because they say a district council employee told them it was not required. Work started at the Bethesda Care Home in Roundwood Lane, Harpenden, more than two weeks ago and is now complete

A CARE home has extended its car park without planning permission because they say a district council employee told them it was not required.

Work started at the Bethesda Care Home in Roundwood Lane, Harpenden, more than two weeks ago and is now complete.

A council officer visited the site following complaints from local residents but the work continued - because even if an enforcement order is imposed it first needs to be ratified by the legal team and dealt with by the courts.

The last application to extend the car park was refused in 1998 on grounds of loss of amenity and the removal of established landscaping but the home inquired about reapplying for permission last year.

Trevor Scott, the general secretary of the Gospel Standard Bethesda Fund, the charity which runs the Baptist home, said he contacted the council to find out if there had been any changes in planning legislation and fully expected to be sent the appropriate application forms.

But he claims a planning officer told him that the hardstanding work they had in mind could be carried out without planning permission provided it didn't interfere with the road.

On the strength of that, he pressed ahead with the work to extend the car park and realign the driveway which he referred to as a "fairly small development."

He said the planning enforcement officer who visited the site last month had not told him what action, if any, would be taken and he was awaiting a letter from her.

Pam and Keith Grant, who are in their sixties, live next door to the care home which currently has 20 residents and they are devastated by the work because they say it has left them with a view of parked cars and concrete.

They were attracted to the tranquil setting nearly 24 years ago and since then Mrs Grant has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease which has required around £30,000 worth of work to the garden and home to aid her mobility.

Confident that the views from their home and garden would be preserved, they carried out the expensive work after the last application for the car park was refused.

The couple said they would have considered moving before spending the money had they known the car park would eventually be extended.

Mrs Grant said its size had increased by about 25 per cent and it now offered around 20 spaces for cars to park.

She said: "It is just appalling, we have been here 23-and-a-half-years and we are so upset. I look out the lounge window and I see parked cars."

The couple said the council officer was very sympathetic to their cause but explained to them that the "wheels are slow to grind" in planning enforcement.

A district council spokesperson confirmed the work at the care home did not have planning permission and said: "The matter will be referred to the next Committee North as to the expediency of taking enforcement action to reinstate the loss of landscaped area and visual amenity.

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