CITY councillors have come to the aid of a Blacon resident hoping to put an end to disturbance caused by almost a decade of escalating anti-social behaviour by gangs outside his home.
The planning application, put forward by Mr D Smith at 44 Wyndham Road, was recommended for refusal to a meeting of Chester's planning board.
His hopes of including part of a grass verge adjoining his end of terrace home in his garden were called in to the board by Blacon Lodge Cllr Reggie Jones (Lab).
Mr Smith proposed he should take over a 16.5m by 4m strip.
City MP Christine Russell told planning officers at the City Council that Mr and Mrs Smith had been in touch with her for almost 10 years over “escalating” anti social behaviour by gangs of youths on the verge adjacent to their home.
The MP said the Chester and District Housing Trust, which owns the strip of land, backed the idea and had agreed in principle to sell to Mr and Mrs Smith.
Neighbours and many other residents of Wyndham Road were said to be supportive of the land being taken into Mr and Mrs Smith's ownership.
Landscape officers argued they could not support the application as it would alter the appearance of Wyndham Road and affect an area which played an important part in the wider landscape.
They said there was a recognised shortfall of open space and the verge had a visual and recreation value for the whole community.
The amenity space which would be lost is public open space which enhances the setting of the road and contributes to the overall enjoyment of the area, according to a report.
It was suggested that if permission was granted, this would set a precedent for other local residents to enclose similar open spaces.
Recommending the application should be refused, planning officers said the extended garden would appear out of keeping compared to other green spaces which form part of the character of the location.
Cllr Jones told the board he opposed the recommendation for refusal and argued for permission to enable the sale of the land to Mr Smith.
As a result of the anti-social behaviour he had been experiencing for many years, Mr Smith was suffering from stress which resulted in time off work.
The police had been unable to help, suggested Cllr Jones “and the best way to resolve the problem is for him to buy the land and fence off the area”.
The housing trust was willing to sell and the problem was the policy covering the loss of amenity space.
“Sometimes we need to look beyond the policy and weigh the balance where we are in a position to improve quality of life,” argued Cllr Jones.
He insisted the area was not open plan as there were large, conifer hedges nearby and other areas had already been fenced in.
He pointed out that Mr Smith was only seeking to include part of the grassed area adjoining his house and this would not undermine the character of road.
A strict application of the policy would lead to confusion and would leave Mr Smith with the problems he had, suggested Cllr Jones.
“He has been battered from pillar to post by the authorities,” he concluded.
Cllr Gwyn Cooper (Lab, City & St Anne's) said she had thought the application would be “fairly straightforward” but had been slightly surprised to find the next door house had a small wall and a very, very tall hedge.
Development control manager Fiona Edwards suggested that did not have planning permission.
“Does Cllr Jones think fencing off this area will solve the problem or will the anti social behaviour simply move somewhere else?” asked Mollington Cllr Brian Crowe (Con).
Supporting Cllr Jones, Cllr Jim Latham (Lib Dem, Boughton Heath) suggested the estate “should be allowed to evolve”.
Planning chairman Cllr Andrew Storrar (Con, Saughall) said he had visited Wyndham Road and the “sense of spaciousness” was welcome in the area.
He was concerned its character could slowly be eroded if verges were taken in.
Cllr Jones explained that the effect of balls or stones hitting their gable end meant Mr and Mrs Smith could not feel relaxed at any time.
It unsettled the whole house and Cllr Jones added: “He has suffered a great deal of health and stress problems and no one seems able to help.”
Miss Edwards pointed out a similar application at Tattenhall had recently been refused but the board agreed on an 11-1 vote with one abstention to overturn the advice of its officers and grant planning permission for part of the verge to be included in Mr Smith's garden.