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TORFAEN: Immunity for conservatory

COUNCIL officials had to pore over satellite maps dating back eight years to decide if up to six buildings at a private home, including a conservatory, needed planning permission. 

Though planning officers spent up to seven months studying maps taken from Google Earth and assessing the images and submitted plans against the council’s policies they found while the conservatory wouldn’t have been approved, had an application been made, they were powerless to act due to too much time having passed since it was built. 

The householders, named only as Mr and Mrs D Pritchard had applied for planning permission, this April, “to regularise” the unauthorised developments at their home in Cwmbran after Torfaen Borough Council issued an enforcement notice. 

Planning officer Sarah Cullen found the 3.4 metre wide glazed conservatory, that is 2.8m at its highest point, was at odds with council polices as “an overly large extension to the front of the dwelling and therefore unacceptable”. 

But Google Earth images confirm it has been in place since August 2016 and the officer wrote in her report: “Therefore it is immune from enforcement as more than four years has passed since its completion.” 

Other changes made to the corner house included fencing off the original entrance, from Fairwater Close, to what was the front, where the conservatory was built, with the entrance now from Heol Ton and altering part of the roof of a single storey part of the house. 

Making it mono-pitched – so it only slants in one direction – rather than being flat involved raising the roof by more than 15cm and wouldn’t have been permitted. 

But Ms Cullen said it could be acceptable as it is “minor in nature” and would not have changed the appearance of that part of the house “entirely”. 

Three wooden sheds in the garden were also shown by Google Earth to have been in place since 2015, meaning they are also immune from enforcement action, though Ms Cullen found they could be acceptable under planning policies.  

A 2.5m high car port, with roller shutters, was considered acceptable while a porch added above a door to the main house didn’t need planning permission. 

In her report Ms Cullen had to consider the character and appearance of the house and area, and the impact on neighbours and found them “on balance to be acceptable”.  

The couple will have to, within three months, send the council details of how they will improve their biodiversity of their garden to meet the council’s planning policy that new developments include such improvements.