Converting a breeze block tin shed into a house

Warrington Nature Conservation Forum are pleased that the Planning Chiefs have turned down the planning application 2021/38827.

Chair Geoff Settle said “As a former member of the planning committee I have been present when some strange applications have been put forward and converting a breeze block mushroom shed with no proper foundations and a tin roof into a house is certainly one of the weirdest.

He was contacted in March 2020 by a former work colleague Bob Hignett who moved to Weaste Lane eleven years ago attracted by its rural setting in the Green Belt. Geoff said “Bob contacted me about his concerns over a planning application that intended to use their narrow shared driveway and then cross their main garden and perimeter fence. The local residents association WLARA also wanted to know if I could advise on any relevant wildlife issues.

“After a site visit and a discussion with Bob and some of the neighbours, I consulted with my WNCF members and lodged an objection on behalf of our committee. I could not believe the condition of the barn and the misery and disruption the project would cause residents. There was a storm of objections from many Weaste Lane residents. WBC Highways Officer visited and produced a detailed analysis of the site. The application was then surprisingly withdrawn at the 11th hour.

This wasn’t the end of the matter and a new application was lodged that proposed to use a public footpath as an access point from the A50. In preparation for the application the applicant cut down a row of mature trees along the A50 and was proposing to use the footpath as an access.

Geoff as WNCF chair is a former steering group member of the Mersey Forest and a path warden. He advised the local Residents to contact Simon Twigg (WBC Forestry Officer) and also the Rights of Way officer.

He said “Trees of this age should in my view be protected. I contacted Simon a few years ago about an application to build flats on the Latchford railway embankment. All the trees on the right hand-side railway bridge had been cut down by the time I was contacted by shop keepers in Latchford Village. Simon was able to halt any more destruction by placing TPO’s on the left-hand side to protect them and the wildlife that they support.

“Definitive footpaths are also protected because they are public rights of way. People have fought long and hard for their right to roam and in this case, it is a popular route for walkers and also a useful connection for residents.”

Geoff went to see the footpath at the proposed access point on the A50. He was shocked when he compared the current view with an image on Google Maps. The tranche of healthy trees had been removed near the proposed access. All he found was newly sawn stumps with fresh sawdust and the hedge cropped near to the ground.

At this time Geoff was still getting used to his new replacement left hip and struggled on the muddy, stony pavement. Due to the pandemic, he was used to fewer cars on the Warrington highways and became acutely aware of the traffic speed and volume at this narrow section of the A50.  Speeding traffic on the 60 mph A50 is a regular occurrence and cars driving at 70+ mph are often seen on the wrong side of the road.

Geoff said “A vehicle coming from the M6 over took a car on the other side of the road to me heading down hill towards Town. The first I knew was feeling a gust of wind as it sped past, missing me by inches.  

“It was like the feeling I get on the first night of practice week at the Isle of Man TT where I’ve marshalled for ten years. John McGuiness’ record average speed is 132.70mph but his top speed is much higher in places.  This car caught me by surprise as I had my back to it. At the TT your brain adapts to the speed of the bikes and side cars as they come hurtling towards you. But they don’t come from behind you!”

Geoff submitted a second list of objections. These included the poor quality of the applicant’s ecology report and omission about the wildlife of the surrounding fields and brooks. In addition the unsuitability of the footpath as an access, the unnecessary destruction of trees and the suspect nature of the barn as suitable for conversion are all reasons why we believe that it should have been turned down.

Looking on the WBC website, other people objecting included 30+ local residents, the Grappenhall & Thelwall Parish Council, Councillor Ian Marks. John Groves formerly WBC and now an independent consultant did a review of the application against current regulations for conversions.

Geoff said, “We cannot have developers calling the tune to WBC. There are rules laid down and these are being abused with some commencing work before submitting their applications or being given permission”.

“The residents are allowed their say and, in this case, they have all done a brilliant job but I believe like Arnie that the applicant will appeal, and he’ll be back.”

Geoff Settle (settlegfs@gmail.com)

Chair WNCF

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