Conservation officer says - we got it wrong in Horncastle

West Street: The location of the property at the centre of the  planning saga.
West Street: The location of the property at the centre of the planning saga.

East Lindsey District Council was wrong to give local MP Victoria Atkins’ father permission to install UPVC windows in a property he bought in Horncastle.

That is the claim in an email written by ELDC’s Senior Conservation and Design Officer Richard Walker.

In the email – sent to members of Horncastle Town Council’s staff and seen by The News – Mr Walker also states a planning officer in charge of the application ‘forgot to speak to him’ about the case.

Sir Robert Atkins – a former Government Minister and a highly respected figure in the Conservative party – bought the property in West Street which is within Horncastle’s Conservation Area.,

He installed UPVC windows and later admitted at a town council meeting that he believed he did not require planning permission.

However, the matter had come to the attention of ELDC who said Sir Robert did need permission.

He subsequently submitted a ‘retrospective application’ – a common practice for work that has already been carried out.

The town council’s planning committee officially objected to that application, saying other similar requests in neighbouring properties had been rejected by ELDC.

However, ELDC gave Sir Robert the go-ahead to keep the windows.

Sir Robert would have faced a bill running into thousands of pounds if he’d had to remove the UPVC windows.

Coun Craig Leyland – the Conservative leader of ELDC - attended a town council meeting at which he defended the decision.

He stressed there had been a ‘full and rigorous’ examination of the application and denied any suggestion Sir Robert had received preferential treatment.

However, it has emerged the town council had recently since written to Mr Walker, asking for clarification on the rules regarding development in conservation areas.

Town council chairman Coun Brian Burbidge told The News applications had been submitted for West Street – and had been refused.

In his email reply to the town council, Mr Walker states: “There was a decision taken recently on a retrospective application which for some reason the case officer forgot to speak to me about.

“I feel the decision was wrong for a number of reasons. I am hoping this was a one-off.”

In a statement, ELDC appear to contradict Mr Walker’s claim.

The council said: “The matter was initially reported to the Council’s Conservation Officer by a member of the public.

“The Council’s Enforcement Team was asked to investigate the concerns raised and contacted the property owner to highlight the options available – either change the windows back to the former style or submit a planning application for consideration.

“Thereafter, a planning application was received and consultees – including the Horncastle History and Heritage Society and the 
Conservation Officer - were invited to submit comments as part of the decision making process.

“On balance, and taking on board comments received, the application was approved because it was felt that the windows used are acceptable and as the property lies at the rear of those properties that face onto West Street with little public view, the changes made do not harm the Conservation Area. “

An ELDC spokesman confirmed Mr Walker was ‘formally consulted’ but no comments were received.

He stressed Conservation Officer’s role in applications is consultant basis.