St Albans building work creates misery for neighbours
FRUSTRATED residents of a city centre street have hit out at what they claim is St Albans council s weak-kneed response to dealing with property developers. Sarah Hogg and her neighbours in Upton Avenue, St Albans, have been complaining to the district
FRUSTRATED residents of a city centre street have hit out at what they claim is St Albans council's "weak-kneed" response to dealing with property developers.
Sarah Hogg and her neighbours in Upton Avenue, St Albans, have been complaining to the district council about builders redeveloping a property along the road since February.
One neighbour said: "The builders have been making our lives a misery since January from 8am to 6pm seven days a week with little or no help from the weak-kneed council."
The list of complaints about the conversion of number 10 from four one-bedroom flats to four two-bedroom flats started with parking issues.
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Mother-of-four Sarah Hogg, who lives next door to the locally listed building, said: "It's outrageous what they have been allowed to get away with. Apart from taking up precious car parking spaces with vehicles, skips and piles of building materials, we have had to put up with frequent smelly bonfires in the garden."
But the final straw as far as residents are concerned came when property developer Michael Hesketh excavated the basement of the house and turned it into a "cinema room" in breach of planning conditions laid down by the district council for the project.
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He was also expressly ordered to put in only timber-framed windows but has used uPVC - not in keeping with conservation area regulations.
An unrepentant Mr Hesketh, who lives in Harpenden but has an office in St Albans, said: "I have applied to have these conditions lifted."
He said he planned to rent out the flats and had earmarked the "cinema room" for his son's private use.
Ward councillor Michael Green, who has been fighting the residents' corner over parking problems, immediately tried to get the matters called in to committee to be considered but was told that was not possible and planning officers would decide the issues.
Cllr Green said: "I am furious that this will be done behind closed doors as these changes are totally unacceptable."
Planning portfolio holder Cllr Chris Brazier admitted he did not know about the issue but would now be taking a close look at the project.
He added: "If someone is cocking a snook at the planning authorities and trying to manipulate the system to his own advantage, I can promise the neighbours we will be on his case."
A council spokesperson said it was not an offence to build without planning permission but if the applications were unsuccessful enforcement action could be taken.
She added: "Enforcement action is not taken simply because a development lacks permission - there must be a good policy decision and it must also be contrary to interests of acknowledged importance.