Chadwell Heath car wash approved despite objections from residents

A car wash development in Chadwell Heath has been given the green light despite residents fearing someone will “slip and hurt themselves” because of wet and soapy pavements and complaining that the noise of jet washes are already “deafening”.

David James Motor Co at 154 High Road had applied for retrospective planning permission with Barking and Dagenham Council so it could officially change its use from a car sales showroom into a hand car wash.

The site was previously a petrol station complete with a showroom, offices and lock-up garages at the back. However the petrol station recently closed down due to the impact of Covid.

In October 2021, the business was investigated and was issued an enforcement notice as it had allegedly already turned into a car wash and breached planning conditions. A council officer said in documents that the council is now pursuing prosecution against the business.

The plans were met with several objections from local residents who raised concerns about noisy machinery, traffic build-up and being “constantly sprayed” from jet washes.

One resident said in council documents: “The noise from the jet wash is deafening to residents especially during summertime when windows to our apartments are opened to allow some ventilation.

“It disturbs our kids from sleeping and also, I work through the night and can’t get any decent sleep during the day to get ready for my shift.”

Another resident said: “The jet washes spray water over people walking past on the High Road side and during the winter the public pavement is very dangerous as it gets icy and slippery.

“I myself slipped and slid there, it’s very dangerous for all pedestrians but especially for the elderly.”

During a meeting with the council’s planning committee on Monday evening (September 11), Cllr Andrew Achilleos spoke out against the plans on behalf of residents in his ward, which he argued have been shown “little consideration”.

Cllr Achilleos told the committee: “The applicant has already exhibited a flagrant disregard of planning policy and enforcement action.

“The initial Section 5 notice to cease operations was not adhered to and the London borough of Barking and Dagenham is now pursuing prosecution. Based on this behaviour, how can we have any confidence that the conditions set out in this report will be complied with?”

He went on to say: “Residents have highlighted that this business whilst operating illegally, produces excessive and disruptive noise which has a negative impact on the community and the surrounding area.”

Cllr Achilleos said there were also concerns about the business and its customers allegedly causing traffic congestion and parking issues for residents.

He said: “The largest area of concern is the adverse affect this business already has on traffic congestion in the immediate area.

“There are also concerns about the availability of resident parking where a Controlled Parking Zone [CPZ] currently operates from 8am to 5.30pm in the area.

“Suggested operating hours for the car wash are until 7pm which means if there is a substantial queue for the service, customers could potentially utilise resident parking spaces, causing chaos down the road when people are returning home from work and trying to park.”

Committee members then had a brief discussion over whether the business should have its operating hours reduced from 7pm to 5.30pm so it doesn’t clash with residents and the CPZ.

Another suggestion was to install perspex screens so local residents weren’t getting splashed by the car wash.

Cllr Jack Shaw who is deputy chair of the planning committee said: “Some of the concerns that residents raised were around getting wet and their children getting wet as a result of the spray of the car; what’s clear on Google Maps is that on a dry day substantial parts of the pavement are wet.

“-the fence adjacent to the pavement should have some sort of perspex installed so that can prevent children and other people on the other public footpath getting wet as well.”

Cllr Muhammad Saleem, who was chairing the meeting then said: “I share your concerns as well because there are disabled people, there are families with shopping and the elderly. I’m going to [put] this question to the applicant.”

Richard Woods, who has owned the premises for more than 33 years was then given the chance to speak about his plans.

He said: “I didn’t ignore the enforcement notice, I’ve had a strong belief that the garage has always been a garage and has always carried out car washes and cleaning.

“Even in the old days we didn’t have jet washes; we had steam cleaners which were a lot more noisier and not as environmently friendly as today.”

Mr Woods went on to say: “As far as water splashing on the pavements, yes we would definitely deal with that and if there’s anything else we can abide by to keep the local residents happy, I would be more than pleased to address it.

“We have all got to keep remembering that this is a very noisy and busy road with lots of businesses going up and down this road and most of the businesses don’t shut before 5.30pm, most of them go on to a lot later and yes we should consider [reducing operating hours] but I think it would be unfair if we have to shut it at 5.30pm.”

The committee then voted on amendments which included installing a screen on the premises so members of the public avoid getting wet as well as reducing the operating hours from 7pm to 5.30pm in the evening.

All committee members voted in favour of the amendments and proceeded to vote on the actual application, which was unanimously agreed and the application was approved.

Ruby Gregory

Local Democracy Reporter