Council officers uncover illegal flat at garden centre

First published in News by , Reporter

A GARDEN centre storage shed which was illegally converted into a residential flat has been raided by planning enforcement officers at Stroud District Council.

The warrant was carried out at Fourboys Garden Centre in Woodfield, Dursley, around 11am yesterday, Thursday, August 23.

Known as the 'Tool Shed', the building was supposed to be a single-storey structure for business use but a second storey was added without planning permission.

Officers had also received intelligence that the first floor was being used as a residential dwelling.

Phillip Skill, head of planning for SDC, said: "In April, officers had requested access to the first floor but the owner had delayed access on several days.

"When an officer was finally allowed in, the first floor was sparsely furnished but did contain a fully fitted kitchen and appliances. Additionally, part of one of the rooms had been boarded off and officers suspected that it hid a bathroom.

"After this visit officers made several further attempts to gain access but were denied on each occasion."

The council then approached Stroud Magistrates' Court for a warrant to enter the building without giving notice, resulting in the court agreeing that to give notice may allow the owner to remove the furniture and hide the bathroom.

Upon executing the warrant, officers found a fully furnished bedroom and lounge together with, as suspected, a fully tiled shower room – which had previously been hidden from them. The building was occupied by a couple related to the land owner.

The council is currently preparing legal papers and is considering whether to have the unauthorised building demolished.

The owner will have a right of appeal against any notices the council issues.

In addition to the disregard for the planning system, the council said the owner had also put his son and partner at significant risk as the building did not comply with safety regulations. Some of the contraventions include a lack of fire protection between the ground floor store - containing petrol driven equipment - and the flat, as well as inadequate means of escape from the flat.

The building also does not appear to have an electrical safety certificate.

"It is unusual for a council to seek a warrant to enter premises without notice, however we were concerned about not only the planning issues but also the fact that the building had not been constructed as a residence should be," added Mr Skill. 

" In my opinion, had there been a fire, the occupiers could well have suffered serious injury or even death. When a building is constructed without planning consent, the builder rarely pays any regard to structural and fire precautions either."

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