PLANS to replace a bungalow extension built without permission in Billinge that residents say “dominates the skyline” have been approved, despite strong objections from the community.

The home at the centre of the row, which has rumbled on for two-and-a-half years, is a bungalow in Stuart Crescent, Billinge.

In 2018, St Helens Borough Council’s planning committee granted planning permission at the site for the erection of a rear dormer, single storey rear extension and hardstanding.

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However, this application was only partly implemented as the rear dormer was replaced with a first- floor rear extension without permission.

A further application to retain these changes was submitted in September 2019 but was refused by planning officers, who found it to be “bulky and dominant”.

The application was later dismissed on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate, although the inspector did not agree with all of the council’s conclusions.

A new application to erect a rear dormer, 6m in width and 1.8m in height with a flat roof, to replace the first-floor extension was submitted following the inspector’s decision.

Due to the history of the site and the number of objections to the current proposals, the application was brought before St Helens Borough Council’s planning committee on Tuesday.

The council received 11 letters of representation from five separate individuals as well as an additional anonymous letter. Two more letters were sent following the publication of the agenda, although these were from two neighbours who had already previously made representations.

Billinge Chapel End Parish Council also objected on the grounds that the plans would be out of character with the dwelling and surrounding area.

Steve Gardner, vice chairman of the parish council, spoke at the meeting and said the main issue is the lack of compliance to the local authority’s development plan.

Cllr Gardner said the building is “distorting” to the neighbourhood and “oppressive” to the adjacent properties, and urged the committee to reject the application.

A second objector, Robert Marrs, said the current extension “dominates the skyline from afar”, which he claimed is significantly affecting the character of the neighbourhood.

Mr Marrs said: “The roof has been significantly raised higher than the approved dimensions and as such has created an unacceptable height disparity compared to number 8 and unacceptable prominence issues for the wider area.

“This proposal retains the same height so there will be no change in this respect.

“Number 6 was already higher than number 8 prior to the build, but raising the roof by the increased additional height built without consent has greatly exacerbated the height disparity and number 6 now towers over number 8 to a significant degree.

“The same appalling height disparity will remain with this new proposal.

“If this application were to be granted and an enforcement notice not served, it would send out a message to households and developments throughout the borough that they can disregard permitted plans during the build phase and then still get away with retaining the additional space created.”

In making their recommendation, planning officers concluded that the proposed development would maintain the character and appearance of the original home.

They said it would not significantly affect the amenity of nearby homes, cause harm to the character of the area or its local setting, and recommended that planning permission be granted.

Melanie Hale, the council’s service manager for development and building control, stressed to members they could only consider the current proposals, and not what is currently on the site now.

Cllr Dennis McDonnell, ward councillor for Billinge and Seneley Green and also member of Billinge Chapel End Parish Council, urged the committee to refuse the plans.

St Helens Star: Cllr Dennis McDonnell, ward councillor for Billinge and Seneley Green, opposed the plansCllr Dennis McDonnell, ward councillor for Billinge and Seneley Green, opposed the plans

He said the new application is still for an “oversized” construction that “does not respect the scale, design and character” of the original home.

Cllr McDonnell said it does also not respect the character of neighbours’ homes and is overbearing on them and out of keeping.

The Labour councillor said members should not be asked to go against their own decision from last year – when it refused a previous application at the site – and that of the planning inspector.

Deputy council leader and former planning chairman Seve Gomez-Aspron proposed to grant planning permission, saying the past history of the site was “irrelevant” in planning terms.

This was seconded by Cllr Richard McCauley, cabinet member for regeneration and planning, who said he did sympathise with objectors on the applicant’s “total disregard for the planning process”.

Despite that, he said he could not see how the committee could go against officers’ recommendation and refuse it on planning grounds and hope to win that on appeal.

Former council leader Derek Long, the newly-appointed chairman of the planning committee, said he attended an informal site visit in preparation for the meeting.

Cllr Long said: “I do understand a lot of the points being made.

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“The difficulty ultimately is, is that we have to operate within that framework of planning policies and law, and precedent and what the planning inspector also commented as well.

“Our officers have had a chance to have a look at this and their recommendation I that we accept. I am minded to accept as well.”

Planning permission was granted following a vote. Cllr McDonnell (Labour), Cllr Allan Jones (Conservatives) and Cllr David van der Burg (Green Party) all voted against.