Hampsthwaite villagers' anger over 18th century cottage renovation project

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Furious Hampsthwaite villagers have criticised council planners for approving a restoration project which they claim has resulted in the “professional vandalism” of a landmark 18th century cottage.

Saddlers Cottage, which has links to English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, was renovated last year after planning permission was granted by Harrogate Borough Council, subject to a number of conditions.

However, the village society has branded the work “unsympathetic and inappropriate” and has been embroiled in a war of words with the council for failing to impose the planning conditions.

Chairman of Hampsthwaite Village Society Stuart Jennings said: “The aim of the society is to preserve and improve the character and amenities of the village. Members and non-members alike are up in arms at what the planning authority have allowed to happen to Saddlers Cottage.

“The authority failed to impose their own recommendations as conditions on the planning approval for a highly sensitive ‘gem’ of a building within our conservation area. Even worse they are now fighting shy of enforcing the actual conditions imposed, which the developer failed to comply with by carrying out the renovations without seeking approval for the materials used.

“This has resulted in what can only be described as professional vandalism.”

In 2009 the council’s planning department prepared a document on Hampsthwaite Conservation Area, which contained detailed recommendations for the design and construction in the area.

The village society claims that when planning approval was granted “watered down conditions were made”, which did not take the document into account. Work then commenced in breach of planning conditions, which stipulated there should be prior approval of details of the materials to be used externally in the construction of the roof and walls.

Mr Jennings said: “The materials used did not comply, a typical breach being re-roofing with multi-coloured slates, totally inappropriate door and windows and plastic drainpipes.”

After the village society lodged an objection with the council, the application, which was submitted after work had started, was rejected on the basis that it had commenced without approval.

The contractor then painted the roof tiles black to make it consistent, which angered the society further when the stain started to wear off.

Mr Jennings said: “The planning officer recommended enforcement to make all the materials comply with conditions. This recommendation has now been buried and planners are capitulating on every matter and seem to be hoping that the matter will simply go away.”

The council has strongly refuted the claims, and in a letter to the society, David Allenby, head of planning and development, wrote that the council would “only take formal action where it is expedient to do so”. However, he admitted the roof material and the colour of the windows and door surrounds were inappropriate and the authority would be taking action.

Councillor Rebecca Burnett, cabinet member for planning, said: “The council is aware of the work which has been undertaken to Saddlers Cottage and the views expressed by some residents. The council has a responsibility to act in a balanced way, taking formal enforcement action where it is necessary. Officers have clearly explained to the village society the action that has been taken and will be taken in the future, and we do not feel we have been displaying a total disregard in respect of alleged breaches of control, which has been suggested.”

Meanwhile, the village society has raised concerns over a planning application that has been submitted to change the use of Saddlers Cottage to an independent dwelling, despite a planning condition attached to the 2014 consent that requires the building to remain ancillary to the neighbouring Swallow Cottage.

It comes after the owner recently sold Swallow Cottage contrary to the advice given by the council that the planning situation regarding Saddlers Cottage should be resolved prior to any sale.

Coun Burnett said: “The owner of the property has exercised his right to seek planning permission to change the use of Saddlers Cottage to a dwelling. The application is still under consideration and any representations received will be taken into account before a decision is taken on whether or not to approve the change of use.”

The architect and owners of the property declined to comment.