Mum-of-one dragged to court over 10sq metre back garden decking after neighbour complains it's 40cm too high

Winefrede Duffy, 59, paid £2,500 to give her garden a makeover and have the 10m sq decking area fitted at her home in Westhoughton, Greater Mancs.

The finished, raised wooden area was around 70cms off the ground when erected in the garden of her £200,000 semi-detached home.

But the ex-council worker was later staggered to find a neighbour had complained about the decking and she was taken to court for breaching local planning rules.

She was told that the maximum height allowed without planning permission was 30cms – just under a foot – above ground level.

Retrospective planning permission and subsequent appeals were both refused on the grounds of the impact on neighbouring residents.

She was fined and ordered to reinstate the decking to its maximum permitted height.

Despite complying with the ruling, the retired former Bolton Council employee says she has been left "disappointed and bewildered" by the prosecution.

Winefrede pleaded guilty to the offence at Bolton Magistrates Court last week and was handed a conditional discharge.

She was also ordered to pay £125 towards the council's investigation, a £200 contribution towards costs and a £20 victim’s surcharge.

The decking was first installed in June 2016 without objection after consulting with neighbours, claims Winefrede.

A court heard she had consulted with her immediate next door neighbours who were happy the decking would enhance the area at the back of her home.

But it came as "a shock" when a neighbour living next-door-but-one complained about the decking and she was later prosecuted by Bolton Council.

She told a court she had not deliberately broken the rules, as she believed the platform was at ground level – and had delayed lowering while seeking further advice.

Ms Duffy has since had the platform lowered from 70 centimetres to the 30 permitted together with a step up – at a cost of more than £300.

Speaking after the hearing, Ms Duffy said: "Unfortunately I had it done too high, I didn't realise I had to have planning permission for decking.

"I realise I didn't comply, but my factors were I didn't know what was considered ground level, I thought my house was at ground level, I didn't realise planning would be needed.

"The aim was to make the garden more accessible as I have friends with mobility problems, I didn't wilfully break the law.

"I spent £900 on planning consultants to give me advice and I put in another planning application, but unfortunately that didn't come to fruition."

Ms Duffy said she was "disappointed and bewildered" by the prosecution and felt she had "valid reasons" for not complying with the enforcement notice sooner.

She said: "I was surprised, I think it's nonsense, but I have to say I was found guilty of not complying with an enforcement notice.

"I'm surprised it went to these lengths as it's decking we're talking about. The reason I didn't think I should have put an application in is that, to me, it's at ground level.

"I admit I didn't comply with the enforcement notice, but I was making further investigations and taking further advice to back up my views and if I could keep the decking."

A spokesman for Bolton Council said: "This case started in response to a complaint – we are under an obligation to investigate a complaint no matter how big or small.

"It was unfortunate that it got to this stage but we did contact the resident in an attempt to resolve the issue."

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