Wroughton house built without planning permission won’t be knocked down

A grieving widow will not have to knock down the house her husband was building on her property in Wroughton.

But she will have to work with council officers to make it more visually acceptable.

When Richard Curtis, who owned Costow Farm with his wife Sue, died last year he was close to the completion of a new house on his land off Wharf Road, south of the M4,

It then emerged the house did not have planning permission.

Mrs Curtis applied to have that consent retrospectively applied to the five-bedroom house and despite officers suggesting to Swindon Borough Council’s planning committee they should refuse it, the members voted narrowly to grant consent

But they were not swayed by the possibility of financial hardship on Mrs Curtis had she been refused permission and been ordered to demolish the nearly complete brick building.

Her agent Stuart Rackham told the committee that Mr Curtis had been given consent in 2019 to convert the office building that was on the plot of land where the house now stands into a family home. He said a serious misunderstanding occurred.

“Approval was given for new materials to be used, such as brick, instead of the steel of the office building, in the conversion,” said Mr Rackham. “That was interpreted as being permission to demolish the building and build the new house.”

In law that wasn’t the case and council officers said while there had been consent to convert the office building – which had also been built without planning permission – its demolition meant there was no consent for any building at all.

Ward councillors Brian Ford and Cathy Martyn urged councillors to grant Mrs Curtis permission. They pointed out the new building was the same footprint and height and mass as the demolished office building.

David Martyn said Wroughton Parish Council wasn’t happy the building didn’t have permission but the financial costs to Mrs Curtis to remove it would cause serious hardship and it didn’t object to it remaining.

Committee members said they could not take financial loss into consideration as action against every building put up without permission would incur financial cost to applicants and they didn’t want to set a precedent.

After a vote to refuse permission and take enforcement action was lost councillor Matthew Courtliff proposed granting permission, but imposing conditions to be agreed on Mrs Curtis about the appearance of the building.

He said: “I don’t think it is out of keeping with the setting, and conditions could be made to improve its visual aspect.”

The vote was passed by just two votes – eight in favour to six against.

After the meeting, Mrs Curtis’ agent Mr Rackham said: “Mrs Curtis is really grateful for the decision made by committee as well as the support and comments from local councillors and the parish council comments during the application.

“The family now just wants to work with officers to discharge the planning conditions.”

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