AN OAP couple claim their lives have been ruined after they were left homeless when their local council forced them to DEMOLISH their own home over a planning row.
Pensioners Ken and Barbara Mead have spent their £250,000 life savings on a decade-long dispute with Cheshire East Council over a warehouse development on a piece of land in Sutton, Macclesfield, which they bought in 2006.
Caters News Agency Ken and Barbara Mead have been forced to move into a canal boat
But in February 2019, Ken, 81, and 77-year-old Barbara were forced to demolish the property and move into a canal boat to avoid becoming homeless after council chiefs said they had flouted planning regulations.
The grandparents, who both suffer from high blood pressure and heart problems, also had to sell their furniture and keepsakes to fund the battle and claim the ordeal has ‘broken’ them after they were left with criminal records for contravening planning law.’FIVE YEARS OF HELL’
Ken, a former builder, said: “The last five years have been five years of hell, it’s been devastating.
“Neither of us are particularly healthy, we’ve both got ongoing health problems and dealing with this has definitely put me into in hospital once with a suspected heart attack because of how stressful it’s been.
“We’ve spent all our savings on legal fees and arguing with the council.
“I can’t put it into words how painful it’s been.
The last five years have been five years of hell, it’s been devastating.Ken Mead
“Cheshire East Council has completely ruined our lives, we’re completely devastated.”
Ken and Barbara, who have two children and four grandchildren, originally bought the land in 2006 with the aim of building a small bungalow to retire to.
But planning permission for them to build a bungalow was knocked back by Cheshire East Council in 2008 and again in 2010, before the couple were eventually given permission to develop the land into a warehouse for commercial use in 2012.
The council have said that the land lies within the greenbelt but Ken and Barbara say the land is brownfield because it was formerly used for commercial activities and they claim the council originally approached the then-owner in 1986 to buy it as a potential car park.
But Ken and Barbara claim they were unable to find a tenant for the warehouse because the council allegedly said that the building was unauthorised, even though they had issued a completion certificate for the building to be used as a warehouse.
So the couple then moved into the warehouse and began to use it as a home in October 2015 after their health deteriorated, living on the building’s ground floor on a sofa bed and using the bathroom and kitchen.WAREHOUSE DEMOLISHED
But in 2016 council bosses said this contravened the original planning notice and ordered the warehouse to be demolished – at the couple’s own expense of £4,000.
An inquiry in June 2017 by a government planning inspector upheld the council’s view and the couple pleaded guilty to contravening planning law at a hearing at Crewe Magistrates Court in January 2019, meaning they now have criminal records.
The demolition was completed last week on February 23, with Ken and Barbara moving onto a 58ft-long house boat bought for them by their family on the canal that adjoins the site, but which they have difficulty accessing.
They have nothing. My parents will never recover from this.”We want them to have some dignity but they’ve been painted as criminals.Sarah taylor
The couple also had to downsize and sell their possessions – furniture including bed, shelves, chairs and tables – in order to move onto the boat.
Sarah Taylor, 50, Ken and Barbara’s daughter said: “They have nothing. My parents will never recover from this.
“We want them to have some dignity but they’ve been painted as criminals.
“I can’t even describe how painful and heartless this has been.
“The canal boat is only a short-term solution.
“It’s inaccessible for people of their age with mobility issues so they need somewhere more suitable where people of their age can live in peace.”NO COMPASSION
Ken and Barbara’s son-in-law, Aaron Taylor, 45, added: “There has been absolutely no compassion, nor regard for the human element in making an elderly couple homeless.
“We’re absolutely furious. Had the council held their hands up and admitted they got things wrong and had they talked to Ken then they could have found a resolution, but they haven’t done that.
“This has been going on for more than 10 years. Ken and Barbara have worked hard all their lives and are good people, so to see the council relentlessly victimizing them over this is just heartbreaking.
There has been absolutely no compassion, nor regard for the human element in making an elderly couple homeless.Aaron Taylor
“We were told in a meeting with the council in November 2017 that the warehouse can be rebuilt tomorrow, it’s mad.
“They’ve depleted them of their life savings and their dignity, they’re broken.
“They’ve destroyed them.”
Barbara added: “It’s been over a decade of torment and heartache. They’ve treated us terribly and our health has suffered.
“The council made us homeless. I’ve survived a brain hemorrhage, a leaky heart valve, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and severe arthritis.
“Ken, also suffers from high blood pressure, has an enlarged prostate gland, diabetes and ischaemic heart disease and was even rushed to hospital last year after he collapsed
“The council has completely ruined our lives.
“They’ve basically left us to fend for ourselves and be homeless, I don’t know where else they would have expected us to go.”NO PERMISSION
A spokesperson for Cheshire East Council said: “On 26 October 2016, the council issued two enforcement notices in relation to the erection of an unauthorised dwelling and an unauthorised material change of use of land to residential use at The Wharf, Sutton.
“Prior to the issue of the notices, the council had made it very clear to the owners that there was no planning permission for the erection of a dwelling and the building, which they had constructed, fell outside the scope of a permission for a warehouse.
“The owners chose to ignore the council’s advice and moved into the unauthorised dwelling.
“It was acknowledged by the owners’ agents as early as June 2013, that the building under construction fell outside the scope of the permission for a warehouse and, as such, may be the subject of formal action by the council.
“The site lies within the green belt, which has strict rules limiting development that can take place. The owners had already been unsuccessful on two occasions, when they applied for planning permission to erect a dwelling on the site.
“The council’s decision to issue the enforcement notices and the requirements of the notices were tested at appeal by an independent planning inspector, appointed by the secretary of state. The inspector found the council’s enforcement notices to be sound and fully justified.
“The appeal was dismissed. The inspector’s decision also made it very clear that evidence showed that the intention of the owners was always to use the building as a dwelling and not as a warehouse.
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“On 15 January 2019, the owners pleaded guilty in court to their failure to comply with the requirements of the notices.
“Failure to comply with the requirements of an enforcement notice is a criminal offence.”
Ken and Barbara’s family are raising money for them on GoFundMe. You can donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/ken-and-barbara-mead
The family have launched a petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/review-planning-enforcement-laws-to-be-fair
Caters News Agency Ken and Barbara said the council the council dispute has left them ‘devastated’
Caters News Agency The plot of land where the couple’s property used to stand in Macclesfield
Caters News Agency The couple were locked in a dispute with East Cheshire Council for 10 years
Caters News Agency Barbara and Ken with their family who believe the couple have been made to look like ‘criminals’
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