A homeowner is facing having to tear down his decking and extension after council officials used Google Earth to prove that he built them illegally.
Colin Thomas tried to use a loophole in planning law to keep the two structures at the front and rear of his terraced house in Portland, Dorset.
He stated the 20ft by 16ft raised decking at the front of his house and the single-storey rear extension were built soon after he bought the property in 2012, and his builder and friends backed him up.
But planning officer Thomas Wild looked up the property on Google Earth and Google Street view – and was able to determine that the rear extension and decking were not present in satellite photos taken in September 2020.
Mr Thomas had not obtained planning permission for the works, wrongly thinking they came under permitted development rights for homeowners.
The front of Colin Thomas’s house in Portland, Dorset, is pictured in 2011 (left) – and with decking in 2021 (right)
Mr Thomas said the single-storey rear extension was built soon after he bought the property in 2012 (drone picture taken last week)
He applied to the local council to make both structures lawful under the rule that recognises any changes to a property that have been in place for four years are exempt from enforcement action.
As a result Dorset Council refused Mr Thomas’ application and he now faces the prospect of demolishing both the rear extension and the raised decking.
Mr Wild concluded: ‘Therefore…it does allow for a conclusion that the rear extension was constructed between September 2020 and June 2022.
‘Therefore it has been present for less than four years and has not achieved immunity from enforcement action on that basis.’
With regards to the raised deck at the front of the house, Mr Wild found the structure was there in Google photos taken in 2016 and 2021.
But he found this was a different decking to the one that stands today.
He said the original decking was timber but the present structure is made from composite boards that have been topped with artificial grass.
He also worked out that the replacement decking was bigger than the original.
Dorset Council refused Mr Thomas’ application and he now faces the prospect of demolishing the raised decking (photo taken last week)
He added: ‘Although it accepted that by around 2016 the original timber decking had become immune from enforcement action, that immunity was lost when the decking was removed.
‘The construction of the decking are fresh breaches of planning control which do not benefit from previously accrued immunity.’
A spokesperson for Dorset Council said: ‘The evidence available from Google Street View images indicates that the decking currently on the site is different from the decking constructed in 2012, which the council accepts did achieve immunity from enforcement, but which was subsequently removed.
‘The new decking is larger, with a different design, incorporating a garage underneath it and is therefore considered to be a new breach of planning control.
‘Street View photographs indicate that it was constructed after 2021 and a retrospective application to regularise the changes, which was refused, confirmed that the works were carried out between April and August 2022.
‘The rear extension is referred to in statutory declarations but aerial photography indicates that it was constructed sometime between September 2020 and June 2022.
‘There is an ongoing enforcement investigation for the site and the next step will be to consider the expediency of taking enforcement action against the works. The applicant will have a right of appeal against the decision and any enforcement notice.’
Mr Thomas, 65, is entitled to appeal.
The works included decking and astro turf to the front and a new extension to the rear, which Mr Thomas claimed were carried out in 2012 (pictured last week)
In his signed declaration to the council in his application, he stated that he ‘solemnly and sincerely declared’ that on purchasing the property in August 2012 ‘works were carried out which included a small rear extension…and a decked area to the front’.
His builder, Hugh Cox, who built the extension and decking also gave a signed declaration. He wrote: ‘I can confirm that I carried out construction works at (the addresss).’
He confirmed the works included decking and astro turf to the front and a new extension to the rear. He said the works were carried out in December 2012.
Friend Liam Bargery wrote to the council saying he has been a regular visitor to the house over the last 10 years and in that time there has always been a rear extension and astro turf on the decking.