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New appeal on 'illegal' homes in Dalham

Dalham, Suffolk. Picture by A.S. Pye(7328260)
Dalham, Suffolk. Picture by A.S. Pye(7328260)

The fate of two houses which were built without planning permission in one of Suffolk’s most picturesque villages is again in the hands of council planners.

The pair of detached three-bedroom homes in Dalham, where a third of properties are listed, were built in 2014 by developer Gordon Smith, who lives in a restored property on the same site at The Woodyard, on Stores Hill. Following an investigation by Forest Heath planners, the council issued an order for them to be demolished.

An appeal by Mr Smith was turned down and a subsequent application for retrospective planning permission, submitted in February 2016 was refused. A new deadline for demolition was set for February 2017.

Mr Smith again lodged an appeal, which was dismissed by the planning inspectorate in August 2017 but he has now launched another bid to gain retrospective permission, which is currently before council planners.

Among villagers who have opposed Mr Smith’s plans are life-long Dalham resident Beryl Audusand her husband John, who is a former parish council chairman. They are infuriated yet another application is being considered.

“We question why an application, which has been opposed by many residents and the parish council, that has an enforcement notice requiring demolition by February 2017 and a further application refused by the council, is being considered again,” said Mr Audus.

“It is obviously costing the council a lot of time and money at a time when it is about to raise the Council Tax.

“Is there is a need for a planning authority at all when it appears to have no authority and buildings are allowed to remain two years beyond the date of an enforcement order issued by the council and confirmed by HM Inspectorate?”

Mr Smith said that when he built the houses he believed that outline planning permission granted to the previous owner of the land in 1973 was still valid because footings had been dug for bungalows although work was never completed.

He said during previous appeals he had been let down by his advisers. “I had two lots of bad advice and then the Inspector who handled the appeal highlighted several issues which were incorrect,” said Mr Smith. “These are beautifully designed and built houses and it is undesirable from everybody’s point of view to knock them down.”

He said he would ‘be content’ to abide by a condition that the two houses should be used as affordable homes if the council decided to allow his application.

A Forest Heath Council spokesman said: “Under planning guidelines we have to give due consideration to any applications or appeals that come forward as well as an opportunity for the applicant to rectify the situation. We have been clear that previous applications are not acceptable but will need to look at the latest plans before taking further action.”