A PENNINGTON woman was accused of “driving a horse and cart” through planning rules by councillors who grudgingly allowed her to keep changes made to her home without permission.
Heidi Ashworth was criticised over plans concerning her Arrachar home at Fox Pond Lane.
One member of New Forest District Council’s planning committee, Cllr Christine Hopkins, accused her of “getting away with murder”.
The proposal, the latest of several at the site, angered councillors because it sought retrospective permission for work she had already carried out to join together two outbuildings 12 inches apart behind the main dwelling.
A previous bid by Ms Ashworth for a single outbuilding to the rear had been rejected by the committee and again on appeal by a planning inspector.
Cllr Hopkins said the applicant had engaged in “abuse of the system”. Cllr Anne Corbridge agreed and Cllr Barry Dunning stated: “the applicant has driven a horse and cart through the planning process”.
Neighbour Ian King accused NFDCs planning department of “ignoring” local concerns and being “less than rigorous” in its application of planning law.
But NFDC chief planning officer Claire Upton-Brown warned members that if they refused the application, Ms Ashworth would likely win the appeal and the authority could be liable to pay her costs if its behaviour was found to be “unreasonable”.
That argument was highlighted by several members, including Cllrs Sue Bennison
and Malcolm Wade, both of whom were unhappy with the application but prepared to back it.
Cllr Wade stressed most of Ms Ashworth’s latest plan – which also sought approval for alterations to the porch, a front log store and a rear canopy – were uncontentious.
After an extended debate, the committee initially voted 7-6 to refuse the application and members then pushed for it to be rejected outright. However, they struggled to justify taking that course of action under planning law.
After several members had a go at proposing reasons, they put forward a motion for refusal – which was defeated 7-5.
As a result, an alternative motion granting approval was put forward, which was eventually passed by the same margin.