Building firm fined after planning dispute ends up at Magistrates court

A building firm has been left with a court bill of almost £8,000 after pleading guilty to ignoring enforcement action from Barnsley Council in a dispute over the way the drives of homes on two new estates were completed.

Monday, 25th February 2019, 16:06 pm
Updated Monday, 25th February 2019, 16:12 pm
Fine: Drives like these put building firm Gleeson Developments in court

Gleeson Developments could have faced a higher bill, because the total included a discount on the fines imposed at Barnsley Magistrates Court in recognition of the company accepting its guilt in the two offences, following a late switch from its original intention to plead not guilty.

The fine for each could have been £2,500 but was reduced to £1,900 and along with covering Barnsley Council’s costs and a £170 surcharge, the firm has to pay £7,818 within the next month.

Now they are in negotiations with Barnsley Council to rectify the situation, which will involve installing hard surfaced drives at homes on the estates involved, which currently have a loose, gravel type, surface.

When planning permission was granted by the council, there was a condition that drives should be finished with solid surfaces, though Gleeson used gravel and took the dispute to an appeal with a planning inspector, who found against them.

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The inspector’s findings were that gravel could become dislodged and end up on the highway, causing a trip hazard for pedestrians and a skid hazard for cyclists, in addition to looking unsightly.

Gleeson’s then submitted a further planning application which would have made the gravel drives legally acceptable, having already pleaded not guilty to breaching planning conditions.

When that planning application was rejected, the firm changed its plea.

In court, Gleeson’s lawyer Freddie Humphries said the firm had been actively trying to resolve the dispute with Barnsley Council.

“What both parties want to do is sort this out and get to a determination of what is an acceptable planning situation,” he said.

Elsewhere in the country, the firm had built 6,000 homes with gravelled drives, including a development in neighbouring Kirklees where there was a condition that drives should have a permeable surface, rather than the solid variety Barnsley Council insisted on.

“This is the way Gleeson have built their properties for ten years,” he said.

A scheme for correction work has now been submitted to Barnsley Council and final clarification was needed before contractors could be sent in to do the necessary work.

“When we have an agreement with the council, within 14 days we will notify all the homeowners; contractors will be employed to sort the matter out,” he said.

The two estates which were the focus of court action were at Highfield Grange in Wombwell and Elwood at Lundwood, but a third estate – understood to be at Bolton on Dearne – is also affected and will be subject to similar work.