Mum refuses to knock her home down

Lena Banks and her cabin

Lena Banks, a 43-year-old mum and horse breeder from North Yorkshire has been told she must knock down the timber cabin she lives in with her 10-year-old son. She put the cabin up herself, at a cost of £25,000, and has been refused retrospective planning permission. She was told to demolish the property, but is refusing to do so.

Lena bought 8.3 acres of land in Sheriff Hutton ten years ago, so she could breed miniature horses. She told the Daily Mail that she built the two-bedroom cabin because she needed to be on-hand to care for the horses - as while she was living in the village one of them had a foal that died without anyone to care for it.

She applied for planning permission once the cabin was erected, but was refused and told to tear the cabin down. She appealed and that was refused. She was then given a six-month deadline to remove the cabin, but the deadline has passed and she refuses to destroy it.
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She told the newspaper that she had exhausted all the legal routes available to her, so had no choice but to dig her heels in.

She is taking a real risk, because at this stage, refusing to comply with the order is a criminal offence, so she could face prosecution. Back in May, the York Press spoke to Council solicitor Anthony Winship, who warned: "Once the six months compliance period for each enforcement notice has expired, the enforcement officers for the council will undertake a site inspection to determine if there has been compliance." He added: "The council may therefore instigate legal proceedings if there is a failure to comply with the enforcement notices."

Refused to demolish

She's not the only person who has built without permission, been ordered to demolish the property, but refused. The most high profile example is Robert Fidler, a 67-year-old farmer from Salfords in Surrey, who built a mock-Tudor castle in 2000 and hid it behind hay bales for years in an effort to get around planning rules.

He was initially ordered to demolish it in 2007, and has since tried every possible legal avenue to keep his home - even arguing that bats had moved in which made demolition impossible. He has also run into a legal dead-end, and has been told he must pull it down by June next year.

If you are ordered to demolish your property and you refuse, you may well be prosecuted. As a result you might face a fine. In June a man in Teeside had to pay a court £5,000 after he refused to demolish the bungalow he had built without proper planning permission. The council also has the power to demolish it themselves and bill you for the work.

In some cases, the situation can get even worse. In 2003, an accountant was jailed for three months for building an extension along the back of his property. He hadn't applied for planning permission, the neighbours complained about how it looked, and the council was concerned that it wasn't safe. He was ordered to demolish it, and after several court appearances and warnings, he was eventually jailed. The council said they would pull it down while he was behind bars.

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Mum refuses to knock her home down

A two-storey extension built without planning permission has plunged Helen Coughlan's home into darkness.

The 52-year-old carer from Woodford Bridge in north east London also says that her neighbour's extension has taken £100,000 off the value of her home.

In 2006, Coughlan finished a loft extension in her own property - moving the kitchen to the top floor to benefit from the space and the natural light flooding in through the windows.

However, Coughlan's neighbour Tariq Ahmed's extension blocks out all natural light.

The extension has been built just 24 inches away from two windows in Coughlan's four bedroom semi-detached home.

The extension was built far wider than the changes that the council had approved.

Helen complained to the council, who confirmed that the extension was bigger than the one they had granted permission for.

However, they have argued that the only impact on the home is 'loss of light' - which is not a qualifying factor in planning applications - and therefore it can stay.

The family now fear that they will never be able to sell their home. 

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