Town Hall meeting 25-Nov-2013 – Summary.
When the framework for the enclosure over UK Docks slipway went up one would assume that they had permission to build it, especially as the first writings we saw described it as; “Approved boat repair shelter at Tyne Slipway.” and the local newspaper reported that a spokesman for UK Docks said ;”All we are doing is going ahead with the previous planning permission”.
It turned out that they did not have permission to build what we now see, it fails to meet the the second condition, that it be built to plan in three respects:
- length – 5.5m too long (planned: 5 frames spaced 5.5m, built 6 frames, 8296/1A);
- height – 2.7m too high (planned: 12.7m road end, built 15.5m, 8296/2);
- width – 1m too wide (planned: 12.2m, built 13.1m, 8296/1A or Mr Wilson’s).
Initially I did not pay it too much attention because I naturally assumed the did have planning permission but the Council would not give us the dimensions. We could however work out that the road end was planned at about 12.5m but was probably 15.5m high. We were all hindered by the fact that there were no approved documents made available until the Agent’s drawing of the Strip Curtain Doors was published a few weeks after the meeting.
Another reason why I did not give it much concern was that I struggling with a complaint against the Council for allowing a joint development by my neighbours; the conversion of two small terraced houses into substantial three story houses during 2012/3. Both their developments bore an uncanny resemblance to Mr Wilson’s slipway enclosure or shed, in that they built what they wished for, rather than that for which they had permission. The building inspector appeared to turn the same blind eye to both their developments as he did later with Mr Wilson’s ‘boat shed’.
The same building inspector was extremely diligent when it came to the guttering and bricks used on the back of my small terraced house next door and an enforcement notice, ENF/12/0155, was issued, a good example of double standards employed by STC.
I had pursued my complaint about the neighbour with a roof top balcony as far as the Ombudsman only to find she did not take my complaint seriously because she had been misinformed by someone from the Council. I was considering whether to write to the then MP, David Miliband, about the balcony, the double garage with roof garden, the party wall troubles and way the Council had allowed all this when the frames started to go up over Mr Wilson’s slipway.
Looking at Mr Wilson’s drawings, I saw that the shed was about 3m too tall and threw my weight behind the people plagued by the noise of the shipyard on River Drive. What neither Mr Wilson nor Mr Cunningham saw was that the gradient of the slipway gave scale to the drawing missing dimensions, road end 13.3m, river end 16m, confirming the 3m variation.
As a group, we stood more chance of getting justice against a corrupt planning authority than I as an individual would, in what was basically a dispute between neighbours so I switched my protest against the neighbour to one against Mr Wilson’s shed.
The Council, mainly Mr Cunningham, had clammed up by then on all issues regarding UK Docks and I was one for reviving the Tyne Gateway Association (TGA) as a way forward. I thought that the then Chairman would stand down because of his business interests but what was worse his employer, Mr Haig, became Treasurer. Thus two of the most important posts were filled by the Director and Procurement Officer of HB Hydraulics. Their trade was mostly dependant on ship repair yards of which UK Docks was one of the last on the Tyne.
Meanwhile the size of the structure had been determined and we have a date, September the 17th, and we later find out that the Council have in their possession at least two approved drawings from about the same time:
- 8296/2 – gives road end height of 12.7m
- 8296/14 – gives by scaling a river end height of 15.6 or 16m
There is no debate about the planned width and with these two drawings one can plainly see that the shed was nearly 3 meters taller as well as a meter wider than planned.
Thus there never any reason for the meeting, so why was it held? It appears that Mr Cunningham got the agenda changed so he could hide the fact that Mr Wilson was not asked to remove his structure or rebuild it per planning permission.
The footings were laid nearly a meter wider than planned in 2001 but it appears that they were not measured until Mr Cunningham did it in September 2013. He found them to be set a meter wider than planned and this was beach of the second condition. Where were the building inspector and the diligent enforcement officer, Mr M Eggenton?
Surely this was a much more vital consideration than choice of guttering on the back of a house. My neighbours deviations from plan, while considerably worse than my gutters both pale into insignificance when compared to Mr Wilson’s shed with its extra height. Perhaps Mr Cunningham was embarrassed because he had told us the shed was approved or ‘legal’ according to the local news when the first frames started to go up.
They did not reckon with the pillars having been made vertical so the width could be measured quite accurately from Greens Place by sighting along the frames and putting chalk marks on the conveniently placed railings, a process later refined by introducing a plumb line and a roofer’s square into what was, after all, basic surveying. I suspected they would get away with the extra width but not the extra height and as you can see we had worked out that it was probably too high and all we needed from the meeting was proof one way or the other i.e. which end of the shed was supposed to be 15.5m.
We did not get it and this in the basis of my complaint against Cllr Anglin. The issue of whether shed should have been removed or rebuilt 3m lower should have been resolved between UK Docks and the Council before we went to the bother of resurrecting the TGA and long before the meeting at the Town Hall. Proof that the shed was nearly 3m too high had existed all along in the authorised drawing 8296/2 and that was long before the first frames and the cranes to erect them arrived on site.
Meanwhile I had to go along with Messrs Haig & Watson, it was their word against mine, when we reported to the rest of the TGA Committee at a meeting a few hours after the one at the Town Hall. They may have been prepared to misinform the other residents and the rest of the world that the structure was approved (‘legal’ in their words) but I was not.
It looks like Cllr Anglin and Messrs Haig and Watson were co-opted by Mr Cunningham hide his misapplication of normal planning procedures particularly with regard to the width.
I needed evidence before Mr Cunningham and his recruits could be challenged so I went and measured the width for myself which was easy at that time because there was not so much greenery on Greens Place, and as I said, I found it to be about a meter wider than planned. The extra width was a breach in planning control and had been since 2001 so I wrote to Cllr Anglin about it and copied it to the others who met at the Town Hall.
Notice, both Cunningham and Watson do not question what I told them about the width but how it was found to be too wide. I think I can safely say that half the committee of the TGA were having problems with Graeme Watson being the Chairman. I have published the full exchange I had with Graeme Watson as it illustrates quite well that under his guidance the TGA had become a problem rather than a solution to the Residents claims that the shed had been built without planning permission.
If Cllr Anglin had bothered to contact me properly about my findings I could have also explained in some detail why it was higher than permitted because the Agent’s drawing and it’s approval had been published, 10-Dec-13.
It was very clear to me that he and the other ward Councillors did not want to be involved and remember your predecessor John Wood was a Councillor when they laid the footings in 2001 when there was quite a storm of protest from the residents affected.
Most of the issues I have referred to above were covered, judging by the correspondence at the time, and probably why Mr Wilson told Mr Cunningham that his shed had been approved. He did not want it discussed either, especially if he and his new Agent, Gary Craig Building Services Ltd had to provide evidence for a retrospective planning application.
I have tried to broach this subject a few times with Councillor Anglin but he always gets the Council, usually Alison Hoy of Customer Advocates, to respond on his behalf saying something like:
I must advise you that this letter is raising your historic complaint again which has been thoroughly investigated by the Council and the Local Government Ombudsman, therefore will be placed on file.
Passing the buck in grand style and look what they told the Ombudsman about the width:
In paragraphs 21-23 the Ombudsman you can see that events have been changed to write me out of my own complaint and that is why you and Emma have so much trouble in getting to the truth behind all this and why the shed is still there.
PS If you are curious to know why I know so much about Messrs Haig and Watson, it is because they were my neighbours in Greens Place and we all shared the same building inspector as UK Docks, Mr Mike Telford.