Westcliff flats to be torn down after council finds they have just one window

Two unauthorised flats in Westcliff are to be torn down after they were found to provide tenants with just a single window.

The flats on Hamlet Court Road were discovered by the council during a separate investigation into a balcony that was installed on the first floor of an authorised block of flats.

The four-storey block which contains 12 flats and two shops was supposed to include 14 parking spaces, including four within the ground floor of the building.

Rather than retain the four spaces on the ground floor, the owner chose to convert them into two flats without obtaining planning permission. Due to the space being designed for parking, each flat has just a single window.

Speaking at a development committee meeting on Wednesday, a council planning officer said: “This site has had an enforcement complaint from a third party over the installation of a balcony. This triggered a deeper look at how the building was being used in relation to planning.

“In 1999 planning permission was granted for a former warehouse and shops to be converted to 12 flats and as a condition the area at the bottom should have been four parking spaces.

“We discovered these two flats had been built at some point in recent past and these flats both breach the planning condition which requires them to be parking.”

He added: “They are substandard in size, they face directly onto a shared parking area and they have no amenity space.”

Members of the committee unanimously agreed that enforcement action should be taken against the flats, as well as the unauthorised balcony. This means the owner will have just four months to remove them.

After the meeting committee member Councillor Daniel Cowan said: “Clearly the entire committee agrees that properties like that are not fit for habitation. A property with only one window does not meet building regulations and is no standard for anyone to live in.”

He went on to say it was an examples of why the council plans to introduce a landlord licensing scheme, which could see private landlords in designated areas paying £750 for a licence every five years.

Under the terms of the licence, landlord would be required to follow council regulations or face penalties of up to £30,000 – and banning orders preventing them from letting properties.

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter