‘Housing developer and rude workers spark 17-month nightmare for …
A housing developer failed to carry-out vital checks before starting work at a Rossendale site where neighbours have experienced various problems for months, a council meeting has been told.
Rossendale Council’s development committee heard the list of problems and planning breaches made for a ‘horrific report on being a bad neighbour’. Applicant Anthony Studley, of Manchester-based Studley Developments Limited, has been given conditional permission for his updated, part-retrospective application for two detached homes on land north of 41 Highfield Park in Haslingden.
The new plan includes an interlocking concrete retaining wall. But the permission came after Rossendale councillors heard about numerous incidents, objections and enforcement work at the Highfield Park site. In addition, a planning agent apologised for the problems on behalf of Mr Studley.
A council report said objections included allegations that:
- the developer had ignored most of a construction management statement
- tractors and trailer vehicles left mud and debris on the road
- there was traffic congestion and residents were unable to park near their homes
- refuse trucks were unable to enter the cul-de-sac.
- permitted working hours were not being followed, with working all day on Saturdays and some Sunday working.
- workers were rude or indifferent to residents
- a footpath next to the site was closed and understood to be because of water problems
- there was flooding of neighbours’ gardens and run-off onto the road, potentially with contaminated water
- residents wanted reassurance that spring water from the site and surface water would not drain into gardens again.
- one vehicle came off the road into a neighbouring garden, narrowly missing a house and one skidded into a neighbour’s vehicle during snow and ice.
The council report also said objectors alleged Studley Developments had committed breaches such as:
- it ignored a stop notice issued by Rossendale Council in July 2021
- claimed to be making the ground safe due to land instability but, in reality, was finishing the house on the second plot.
- worked on the second plot despite planning permission lapsing in October 2022.
- cleared the land during bird-nesting season
- breached planning conditions and health-and-safety conditions
At the Rossendale development meeting, Margaret Lord, a resident, spoke on behalf of neighbours about heavy vehicles blocking the road, mud and flooding.
She said: “We are not opposed to the houses but residents want to reduce the problems. We have had this for 17 months. A big problem is that vehicles cannot get access at the same time. So there are large vehicles, some of them weighing 44 tonnes, waiting in the street.
“There also land stability issues and drainage. Water was running down the street and people say their gardens were flooded.”
“The new construction management statement is recommending that on-street parking for work vehicles should be allowed. But some of these weigh 20 or 40 tonnes. If this new application is approved, can you suggest the exact locations where vehicles should park or unload, entrances, exits and other things.
“We also need reasonable space for visitors, emergency services and bin lorries. Can we include residents in the considerations.”
Richard Gee spoke on behalf of applicant Mr Studley, who is based at Deansgate in Manchester city centre. His usual planning agent, Lekia Lebari-Orleans, of Octo Architects in Liverpool, was unable to attend the Rossendale Council meeting.
Mr Gee said: “I’m aware of the frustration through the year with this. My client is very aware of that. He apologies for any inconvenience. However, much of it has been beyond his control, such as serious concerns about safety of the slope at the back of the site, which has been dealt with urgently.
“There have been times when there was simply no room for contractors to park on the site. My client is sorry if any local person has suffered. However, past problems are not material considerations in this planning application.”
Mr Gee added: “This new application is almost a carbon copy of the earlier one. The concrete retaining wall is the main change, which is a good thing. Most technical matters such as drainage and land stability has been addressed. There are a few outstanding things.
“Under no circumstances will he [the developer] do any more construction work until all the outstanding issues are dealt with and the construction management statement is agreed, including the suggestions from Mrs Lord.”
WORK DONE WITHOUT PERMISSION
Labour Coun Liz McInnes asked why work had started at the Highfield Park site before permission was granted?
Mr Gee replied: “I’ve not been involved with this site but I understand land stability was one of the main reasons why work started early.”
He understood the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) were involved at one point.
He added: “My client is very keen to say everything in the construction management plan will be adhered to, 100 per cent. I’m saying this at a public forum.”
Labour Coun Marilyn Procter, chairwoman of Rossendale Council’s development committee, said: “You have given assurances about the construction management plan. But this is quite a horrific report on being a bad neighbour. How do we know assurances will be complied with?”
Mr Gee said: “All I can say is that my client says he will adhere to the construction management plan. Until these things are sorted out, he won’t put a spade in the ground. I’m not the builder but I’m passing-on his massage.”
A council planning report stated: “The land was disused and overgrown but work commenced unlawfully on the implementation of planning permission from 2019 without discharging the pre-commencement conditions. One of the houses is now substantially complete.
“The new plans are similar to those approved in 2019, for which permission has now expired. Work has also been carried out not in accordance with the plans approved by conditions on that application, and a number of pre-commencement conditions about drainage, contamination and gas monitoring, and land stability have not been discharged.”
Amendments in the new application to regularise the situation include changing bay windows to flat windows at the rear of the houses, omission of chimneys and alterations to a garage roof and doors. The new plan also includes building a retaining wall to the east and south of the second plot.
DRAINAGE, FLOODING, LAND STABILITY AND CONTAMINATION CHECKS
On the latest situation, the council report stated: “The applicant commenced development without discharging pre-commencement condition in respect of drainage . United Utilities has advised the proposals are acceptable in principle.”
On land stability, it stated: ” The applicant commenced development without the site being fully-assessed to establish the stability of the site and the surrounding land. The applicant has now submitted details of a retaining wall and ground floor slab construction which the council’s land stability advisor considers satisfactory.”
On potential contamination, the report adds: ” The applicant commenced development without requiring a preliminary risk assessment report and on-site gas monitoring. The council’s contamination consultant has advised that the applicants have now undertaken a site investigation of the soils. So instead of the normal preliminary risk assessment report, a more focussed condition about gas monitoring could be applied.”
It adds: “A large number of complaints have been received by the council about works being undertaken and non-compliance with the construction management statement.
“The council’s enforcement team has visited the site on many occasions and reiterated that the developer needs to comply with the statement. A Building Contravention Notice was served in July 2022, due to them going against the condition of the planning permission relating the construction management statement. They had 28 days in which to comply. Further photographic evidence of breaches taking place has been received. Legal [staff] are now looking into taking-forward a prosecution.”
However, under the planning system these problems were not classed as ‘material considerations’ in considering the new application, the report added.
Planning officers recommended approval of the new plan with numerous conditions. Councillors voted to approve this.
Rossendale Council would keep working to ensure conditions were followed. Residents should also report mud or water on the road to lancashire-county-council>Lancashire County Council, who would visit the builder if the road was not cleaned at the end of the day.
Residents suggestions, as outlined by Mrs Lord, would also be considered for potential extra conditions.
- ^ Rossendale (www.lancs.live)
- ^ Haslingden (www.lancs.live)
- ^ Rossendale Council (www.lancs.live)
- ^ Labour (www.lancs.live)
- ^ lancashire (www.lancs.live)
- ^ Lancashire County Council (www.lancs.live)