A HOMEOWNER has been ordered to tear down decking and an extension after a council used pictures captured from space to spy on him.
Colin Thomas, 65, is embroiled in a planning row which prompted officials in Dorset to search out Google images from on high.
Colin Thomas’s home was pictured here in 2011, a year before he bought itCredit: BNPS
Different decking appeared to be shown in photos from a decade laterCredit: BNPS
He hoped to use a loophole in planning laws to keep the two new structures at the front and back of his house in Portland.
He is said to have thought they came under permitted development rights for homeowners so didn’t seek planning permission.
Mr Thomas did apply to Dorset Council to make both structures lawful under a rule recognising any property changes which have been in place for four years.
He said raised decking at the front of his home, measuring 20ft by 16ft, was built soon after he bought the place in 2012.
He was backed up by his builder as well as friends who have visited the terraced house over the past decade.
But planning officer Thomas Wild looked up the property on Google Earth and Google Street View.
And he found the current decking and a rear extension were not there in satellite photos captured as recently as September 2020.
He concluded in a report to the council’s planning committee that the rear extension was built between that month and June 2022.
Mr Wild added: “Therefore it has been present for less than four years and has not achieved immunity from enforcement action on that basis.”
He also told how a raised deck at the front was there in Google photos from 2016 and 2021 – but different decking from today’s.
He reported how the original decking was timber but the current structure is made from composite boards, topped with artificial grass – and the replacement is larger than the original.
He added: “Although it is 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.”
The local authority refused Mr Thomas’s application and he now faces the prospect of demolishing both the raised decking and the rear extension.
A council spokesperson 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.
“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.
“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.”
Mr Thomas is entitled to appeal, they added.
He had filed a signed declaration in his application to the council, saying that when buying the home in August 2012 there had been works including “a small rear extension” and “a decked area to the front”.
Hugh Cox, who built the extension and decking, also gave a signed declaration saying he carried out works there in December 2012.
And Mr Thomas’s friend Liam Bargery wrote to the council saying he was a regular visitor over the past 10 years and that there had always been a rear extension and artificial grass on the decking.
A planning officer pinpointed a home using Google images (photo taken last week)Credit: BNPS
Mr Thomas had wanted retrospective approval for decking and an extensionCredit: BNPS
Mr Thomas could now have to demolish the outdoor home improvementsCredit: BNPS