A back garden storage building – branded an “abomination” and the “most luxurious shed” a councillor had ever seen – has been condemned by Solihull planners and could now face demolition.
Members said the sturdy structure to the rear of Longmore Nursing Home, in Longmore Road, Shirley, would leave elderly residents at a neighbouring care facility staring at a brick wall.
And they criticised the failure to follow the proper planning process for what has been described as a storage shed but committee members have likened to a bungalow.
At a planning meeting last week, all nine members voted to refuse permission for the retention and extension of the L-shaped building.
This opens the door for the applicant being ordered to pull down what has been built, with Solihull Council having been asked to confirm the next steps in terms of enforcement action.
The local authority’s own planning department had actually advised approval, arguing the building would not cause “undue harm to the character and appearance of the area.”
But this was fiercely rejected by the councillors themselves.
Cllr Richard Holt, chair of the planning committee, said: “It is not a storage shed, we are not going to be taken for being mugs in Solihull, clearly it’s a bungalow.”
Cllr Jim Ryan (Con, Bickenhill) had said features visible in the photos – including cavity wall insulation and bricks to help with damp-proofing – called into question the intended use of the building.
“That’s quite expensive – that type of brickwork – for a shed,” he said.
And Cllr Diana Holl-Allen (Con, Knowle) was also unimpressed, describing the development as “inappropriate full-stop”.
“They’ve taken the Michael out of us haven’t they?”
Planning officers had said that work had been carried out to extend an existing outbuilding in the grounds – which had itself been built without planning permission.
The council said it had tried to encourage an application for the original scheme but had chosen not to pursue enforcement action, as it was not deemed to have a significant impact.
However work later started to expand the single-storey building.
Case officer Jon Hallam had told the meeting that work on the enlarged structure was “substantially complete”, so the application was partially retrospective.
In the report presented, the department argued the scheme would “not result in unacceptable impact to nearby residential premises.”
It was also suggested that the usage of the building would be one of the conditions attached to any approval.
The applicant had not addressed last week’s meeting, but papers submitted in support of the scheme maintained it was a “small” extension.
“There is ample grounds surrounding the building and all parts of the proposal are at least one metre from the boundaries,” said a planning statement.
Eileen Ward, a trustee of a neighbouring care home, Elizabeth House, had been among those to object.
She said that until last summer two residents’ rooms overlooked “attractive gardens” at No 118 but a “featureless brick wall” now blocked the view.
“At times due to illness or infection control our elderly residents are confined to their quarters,” she said.
“The windows in their rooms are the only outlook they’ve got to the outside world.”
She had urged the council to take action against the development.
Ward councillor Karen Grinsell (Con, Shirley East) said she was also concerned about the impact on the elderly residents of Elizabeth House and “complete disregard” for planning rules.
“Imagine if it was you or your mother or father who was bedridden and literally confined to their bedroom with only that brick wall as their view.
“Now we’ve all just been through a pandemic, residents have had reduced movement, they’ve been limited on some occasions to not being able to go out if they’ve been in isolation.
“They have literally been overlooking that building site.”
The application was ultimately refused permission amid concerns about its “overbearing” nature and the impact on the surrounding area.
The detailed reasons were to be signed-off by the chair and vice chair following the meeting.