Builder ordered to change roof tiles

THE owner of a mansion taking shape near Morpeth must remove roof tiles he has used without planning permission.

He acquired the former nursery garden at Clifton with consent for a stone and slate house, but wanted to change the design, councillors heard.

A planning officer allowed red brick to be substituted for stone and when the owner’s agent asked about dropping slate in favour of brown brindle clay tiles, he was told that might be acceptable.

But by the time the retrospective planning application was put before the county’s North Area Planning Committee on Thursday officers were opposing the change.

Agent Paul Conn told the committee at Alnwick: “I’m amazed at having to stand up and do this because the pre-application advice from the planning officer was that that material was fine, and that was also in an email.

“So, the client said, ‘Let’s get on and get the roof on before the bad weather starts’. I received a call from the planning officer and nearly fell off my chair when he said he had changed his mind.”

Asked if the council could face a legal challenge, solicitor Tom Graham said if it did, it would deal with it.

“With all due respect to Mr Conn, I think he’s being a little disingenuous if he thinks he could proceed on the basis of an email exchange. He must be well aware of the procedure,” he said.

“As a matter of law it’s not appropriate for members to feel themselves bound by an email exchange from an officer.”

North Planning Manager Peter Rutherford said such a large area of dark tiles would dominate the neighbourhood. He had suggested a compromise in which parts of the building could keep tiles, with slate on the rest, but the applicant wanted all tiles.

Speaking on behalf of local objectors, Crispian Strachan argued there was no reason to compound the damage already done by allowing the change from stone to brick. The tiles were not a traditional material for the area.

Four neighbours and Stannington Parish Council objected and nine people signed similar letters supporting the change.

Coun Dougie Watkin’s motion that the entire roof should be slate was agreed by seven votes to two.

“I think any time in the last 200 years this house would have been built totally with blue slate and it should be today,” he said.

But Coun Trevor Thorne thought the tiles should be allowed.

He said: “This is a one-off – it’s not meant to fit in with anything. It’s a mansion house and I think because of that it’s got its own design.”

Coun Gordon Castle sympathised with the applicant, but said he had to support the officer’s recommendation.