District councillor at centre of planning row about ‘overuse’ of shed for business

JPCT 141212 Dispute over access across driveway in Rudgwick. Owner Oliver Ward. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 141212 Dispute over access across driveway in Rudgwick. Owner Oliver Ward. Photo by Derek Martin

A Horsham district councillor has been thrown into the centre of a planning row which is being investigated by the council’s planning officers.

John Bailey (Con, Rudgwick) has right of access over Oliver Ward’s drive for access to a shed in Highcroft Drive, Rudgwick - a narrow private road leading to a small number of houses.

However, for the past six months Mr Ward and other neighbours say the councillor has allowed the shed to be overused. Matters came to a head two weeks ago.

Mr Ward, who has sat on the parish council with Mr Bailey, said: “Since June he has allowed [two businesses] to work there and operate their workshop out of the shed.

“They have been parking cars on my driveway and in order to prevent this I have locked my gate.

“He has access to the field for agricultural purposes and to the shed for storage. He is allowed to have cars unloading and loading, but not parking. The cars were parked there 8.30am to 5.30pm.”

Other neighbours supported Mr Ward’s view, however a spokesman on behalf of Mr Bailey disagrees.

Jan Vernon, also of Highcroft Drive, said: “Since the [business] has been there, there has been a huge increase in traffic. It’s delivery vans mostly; at least two in the morning and two in the evening if not more and the customers come up as well.”

The statement submitted on behalf of Mr Bailey, who was first elected to the district council in 2003, is below.

A spokesman for Horsham District Council confirmed officers were investigating Mr Ward’s complaint.

There are a number of planning applications relating to the building in question, including RW/64/92, RW/72/93 and condition 13 on RW/72/00, which can all be viewed on the council’s website (www.horsham.gov.uk).

The spokesman said: “The council is currently investigating an allegation of a planning breach at these premises and therefore the council is not in a position to comment on the ongoing investigation.

“Carrying out building works or a change of use without the necessary planning permission is not a criminal offence but if an enforcement notice is served and not complied with, then court action and penalties, such as fines, can be imposed.

“Government guidance makes it clear that the council should not pursue formal enforcement action unless there are clear planning grounds to do so.

“Therefore, if an enforcement investigation concludes that there is a breach of planning control, the council will decide whether it is appropriate to pursue formal enforcement action.”

The council spokesman added that a retrospective planning application could be submitted and it would be considered against relevant planning policy and any other material planning considerations.

One of the planning conditions on the shed is that it ‘shall be used only for its existing lawful use for only as an integral part of Rudgwick Metals Ltd’ (Mr Bailey’s company) because ‘a more intensive use of the site could result in an increased traffic generation along Highcroft Drive to the detriment of highway safety’.

However Malcolm Williamson, speaking on behalf of Mr Bailey said Mr Ward had misunderstood the established uses of the site.

He said: “John Bailey regrets Oliver Ward’s unwillingness to understand the practical and legal situation over rights to use Highcroft Drive.

“From the time the land formerly owned with Old Parsonage was sold in the 1960s rights were created over Highcroft Drive. These recognised the right of areas now owned by John Bailey to use the drive.

“The right of way over Highcroft Drive granted by a conveyance 22.1.1976 (Morse to Bailey and Flanigan) cover two rights of way.”

These cover a right to ‘pass and repass at all times and for all purposes with or without vehicles and/or animals and by foot’ over Mr Ward’s driveway to Mr Bailey’s land and also along Highcroft Drive.

Mr Williamson said: “Oliver would clearly like to control the use of that right but it has had to be pointed out that he has no right to do so. He sought to relate the use of the rights to uses he felt were permitted under a covenant.

“Under that covenant the land in question should not be used other than for storage purposes or for such other use as was established at December 31 1963 within buildings or for agricultural or horticultural purposes. He felt that the use in relation to vehicles was not permitted and this seems to be based on his misunderstanding of the uses established on the site.

“It has been pointed out to Don Burstow, Mr Ward’s solicitor, that the best evidence of the minimum use allowed was set out in a Certificate of Lawfulness issued by HDC in 1993, which was granted long before John Bailey was elected to HDC.

“The certificate specifically acknowledges that the recognised use included the storage of large vehicles. Those vehicles were always serviced in the building.

“It has also been made clear to Don Burstow that John Bailey and his advisors are happy to meet with them to discuss precise issues but only against the background that the use is established and there is no legal right for Oliver to seek to physically interfere with the right of way whether by seeking to lock a gate or park in a way which inhibits the exercise of these established legal rights.”

He added that the pair were close acquaintances: “John Bailey worked happily with Oliver Ward as Rudgwick parish councillors till Oliver’s resignation from the parish council earlier this year and is anxious that working relationship within the village is not impaired.”

Mr Ward has since unlocked the gates, but has noticed a decrease in the number of vehicles parking in his driveway.