Extra floors added to a controversial planning permission-breaching block of flats in Kettering have been ordered to be removed by the company that built them – with a two-month deadline.
A Government planning inspector visited the Job’s Yard site after builders Michigan Construction Ltd appealed against an enforcement notice issued by North Northamptonshire Council in September 2021.
Breach of planning control had been alleged after the construction of a 5th storey – permission for a 4th storey (KET/2019/0908) had already granted after a previous appeal.
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Now the Kettering-based firm will have to ‘permanently remove the 5th storey’ by August 22, 2022, to comply with the original planning permission and the order.
Planning Inspector Mr M Savage said in his report: “The requirements of the notice are to permanently remove the 5th storey to comply with KET/2019/0908 (planning permission).”
Mr Savage had been on a site visit to Kettering to see the building to consider the main issues of the appeal – the character and appearance of the area and its effect of the flats on the adjacent conservation area and the effect of the apartments on neighbours’ views and privacy.
He concluded that there would be a ‘degree of mutual overlooking’ as a result of the consented four-storey scheme adding that were he to grant planning permission for the 5th storey, as constructed at the time of the enforcement notice, ‘it is highly unlikely to be occupied and so there would be no harm arising from overlooking’.
But it was the harm to the Kettering Town Conservation Area (KTCA) that had outweighed any other reason to refuse the appeal (APP/M2840/C/21/3283460).
Summing up his decision basing it on the National Planning Policy Framework 2021, he said: “In my view, there are no benefits which would outweigh the harm to the character and appearance of the area and the harm to the Kettering Town Conservation Area (KTCA), the conservation of which I attribute great weight to.
“While the framework seeks to encourage the use of brownfield land, the deemed planning application is for an unfinished 5th storey.
"I consider granting planning permission for an unfinished structure is highly unlikely to improve the viability of the overall site and could actually reduce the overall value of the scheme.
"Furthermore, the structure would be uninhabitable and so there would be no increase in living accommodation as a result of the appeal scheme.”
Rise and fall of the Job’s Yard flats
An original planning application in 2008 for four shopping units and six one bedroom flats was approved by Kettering Borough Council (KBC). After it had lapsed, in 2012 the same application was approved again with changes to the number of retail units – now one shop and seven apartments.
In 2015 an application to change to the planning to 14 flats was refused by KBC. As only limited works had been undertaken on the site, Michigan Construction Ltd was advised to submit a fresh application.
Work started illegally in 2018 on the shop and seven apartments three-storey building with the company applying for retrospective planning permission. Due to time constraints the developer couldn’t resolve all conditions placed by the planning committee and an application to ‘discharge conditions’ was refused on December 5, 2018 – permission then lapsed.
Extra floors have been added to the apartment block in Jobs Yard, Kettering
In April 2019, an application for 14 apartments was submitted and refused by KBC and again in August when the plans were changed to 10 apartments, once again refused.
Finally in December of the same year approval was given for three shops and seven flats a ‘Section 73A’ retrospective application. An application in March 2020 to change planning permission to nine apartments was again refused by KBC. This decision was overturned after an appeal to the Government's Planning Inspectorate in January 2021 granting planning permission for nine apartments - six one-bedroom and three two-bedroom. New plans increased height from three to four storeys with a stepped profile to set the upper storeys back further from neighbours.
But since the decision to overturn the refused plans, the Kettering-based construction company began adding an extra fifth floor – with planning permission reliant on an appeal.
Two temporary stop notices were issued by North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) – replacing KBC as the planning authority.
The stop notice issued in August 2021 by NNC, now lapsed, stated that the builder was to cease ‘all construction activity associated with the building of a five-storey block of flats - other than limited work required to make this site safe’ adding the reason for the notice being issued as ‘a fifth floor is being constructed unlawfully following the grant of planning permission under KET/2019/0908 which was for four storeys only’.
Michigan Construction Ltd appealed to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate and while the company’s owner Marcus Fielding awaited the decision, construction had been continuing for a further nine months with the risk that any building above the fourth storey could be ordered to be demolished.
In a statement Mr Fielding sent to this newspaper, had said he intended to live in one of the apartments and hoped his appeal would be successful.
Since the extra fifth floor was completed, work had continued with structures on the roof towering over neighbouring buildings.
Building Control staff must act if a structure poses an ‘immediate threat to life or safety’, and the owner is unable or unwilling to carry out urgent repairs. A council can act to remove the danger and in these circumstances make ‘all reasonable attempts to cooperate’ with the building owner before carrying out essential works.
If a building remains unsafe then the council will undertake the ‘minimum amount of work necessary’ to make a building safe, and seek to recover costs from the owner.