A COUNCILLOR will have to leave the room when a complaint against her is discussed.
Cllr Kay Loch (Con, Burton & Ness) is a member of Ellesmere Port and Neston planning committee.
Borough planning chief Tom Miller says a complaint has been made to the authority about the use of her home at Sandpipers on Neston Road in Ness for the display and sale of play equipment.
Mr Miller says legal advice has been taken on a report, in which Cllr Loch is not identified.
The location of the equipment has recently changed, according to the unidentified complainant.
Mr Miller is to tell the committee a complaint was first received in June 1996 that Sandpipers was being used for the display and sale of activity toys including slides, swings and climbing frames.
Cllr Loch accepted she ran the business which amounted to displaying the equipment in her garden, storing it in a garage and allowing customers to inspect and purchase equipment at the property.
Access to the property is taken from Neston Road into a small courtyard overlooked by other properties, says the report, and the complaint involved traffic issues.
Authority was given for enforcement action against the use of the garage for storage but no action was taken on the sale and display of the equipment.
Cllr Loch agreed to store the equipment elsewhere and the enforcement notice was not issued.
Complaints about traffic and disturbance from traffic and customers continued, which suggested the business was expanding.
The borough's planning committee had a further report in July 1997 when it was noted that any enforcement action would need evidence of a change of use and nuisance.
The evidence which was available was limited and open to different interpretations, according to Mr Miller, and on that basis no further action was proposed.
No further complaints were made until January this year when it was alleged a change of use had taken place and the equipment on display had moved.
These complaints came from different properties to those previously involved.
Council officers visited Sandpipers and found that Cllr Loch had purchased an adjacent property and then resold it apart from part of the garden.
Boundary trees had also been removed with the council's consent which had the effect of making the land more visible.
The play equipment which had been placed there was solely for the use of her own children, Cllr Loch told the council and was not for sale.
The demonstration equipment was still in its original location.
Mr Miller suggests the question is whether the scale and nature of the commercial activity has changed since 1997 and if this amounts to a change of use.
Cllr Loch has explained the business has steadily declined to the point where it may no longer be viable.
Mr Miller accepts that no complaints have been received from residents who would be most affected by any increased sales.
He says that from the inspection, although the business use has continued, it has not expanded and may have declined.
The play equipment which led to the complaint does not appear to be for sale and no evidence has been provided to suggest it is used for commercial purposes.
Nothing else has taken place at Sandpipers which requires planning permission and there have been no complaints about increased traffic.
In order to take enforcement action, it would be necessary to show there has been a change of use of since 1997 and the property is no longer mainly a dwelling. At present this cannot be established, suggests Mr Miller.
He is recommending to the planning committee meeting on Tuesday (July 8) that given the nature of the complaint, the situation should be monitored for the next six months which is a period during which sales are most likely.