ST HELENS Council says it is seeking a prosecution after a car wash at a garage site flouted an enforcement notice and continued to operate after planning permission had been refused.

The Star reported in April after the council's decision to refuse permission for a hand car wash at the Ace of Hearts site in Bold heath due to “harm” caused to the “openness of the green belt” was upheld by the Planning Inspectorate following an appeal.

What was the refused application for?

The retrospective application, sent to St Helens Council in 2022, was for a change of use to a hand car wash facility to include the retention of structures at the location on Warrington Road, Bold Heath.

Plans said the application site related to an outdoor hand car wash facility, known as RS Hand Car Wash, which was previously used in connection with a former car sales forecourt (HSK Motors Ltd) prior to the existing use.

The site is positioned on the northern side of the highway, and forms parts of a wider site compromising the Ace of Hearts Garage, a petrol station, barbers and an MOT centre. The application site is located within the green belt, and Bold Forest Park.

Bold Parish Council had raised an objection to the application.

St Helens Council refused the application and in a report published January 2023, case officer Alex Ball stated: ““I conclude that the development on this site would be inappropriate development which, by definition, is harmful to the green belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances”.

After this, an appeal was lodged to the Planning Inspectorate.

St Helens Star: St Helens Council planners refused the applicationSt Helens Council planners refused the application (Image: Stock)

Appeal dismissed

However, upholding the council's decision, planning inspector C Billings said earlier this year: "I have found that the car wash facility is inappropriate development in the green belt.

"The development has also led to a reduction in the openness of the green belt. The harm to the green belt, by reason of inappropriateness and the loss of openness, attracts substantial weight."

It was added: "The development also has an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the area, and this adds to the harm. I have given careful consideration to the arguments put forward.

"However, the benefits of the facility do not clearly outweigh the totality of the harm arising from inappropriateness and other harm caused."

The inspector noted that an application for a certificate of lawfulness for the parking and storage of motor vehicles at the site, which was approved, "does not relate to the use of the site as a car wash facility" but to the "longer term established existing car garage use", and was afforded "limited weight" in the decision.

It was added "whilst the adjacent car repair garage and petrol filling station are established businesses, the appeal scheme is a complementary use, rather than an expansion of the existing adjacent business operations".

Council 'seeking prosecution'  

During May's planning committee hearing, head of planning at the council Kieran Birch spoke of enforcement action the authority had taken over the matter.

When asked about this, a St Helens Borough Council spokesperson said the authority was seeking a prosecution after the unauthorised car wash use continued following the issuing of a Planning Enforcement Notice last June.

The spokesperson said: "The council served a Planning Enforcement Notice on the unauthorised development at the Ace of Hearts Garage site in Bold Heath, which required the cessation of the unauthorised car wash operation and removal of the associated structures. 

"The notice came into effect on June 8, 2023 with a date for compliance by September 8, 2023; however, we are aware that the persons responsible continue to operate in breach of the notice.

"Following the recent planning inspectorate appeal dismissal, the council is now seeking prosecution for non-compliance with the enforcement notice.

"Non compliance with an enforcement notice is a criminal offence and any persons guilty of the offence, upon conviction is liable to an unlimited fine."