‘Santa’ stages protest over windows dispute with Fenland Council - and then finds a surprising ally in the leader
- Credit: Archant
A businessman turned ‘Father Christmas’ to stage a one man protest outside a civic event following a four year dispute with Fenland Council over plastic windows in his terraced house.
Peter Taylor donned the seasonal costume as part of what he called a ‘non protest’ outside the Boathouse, Wisbech, as guests – including councillors, officers and developers- arrived for the annual building and design awards.
Only later did guests realise that the Father Christmas welcoming them at the entrance – and who collected £12 in the process for charity- was the Chatteris businessman at the centre of an enforcement battle.
“Everyone will now know I was here,” he said. “This is a non protest to try and get the attention of councillors and officers. It is not about the money. I’ve done £6,000 in legal costs already and it’s not about showing disrespect to anyone. It is simply about being treated fairly- and I feel, as do many others, that I have not been dealt a fair hand.”
Last month Mr Taylor boarded up the front door of his New Road, Chatteris, terraced home (part of a Grade 11 listed block) after being told that a newly fitted front door was unacceptable. Two years ago he lost a court battle after Fenland Council’s decision to order the removal of plastic windows was upheld on appeal and a subsequent court case.
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On Monday night Mr Taylor won surprising support for his campaign during a speech by council leader Alan Melton prior to the announcement of this year’s winners of the Fenland Building and Design Awards.
Mr Melton said of Mr Taylor that “I won’t go into details of his dispute but one of the things I hope to achieve – call it a legacy if you like- will be to try and iron out anomalies in the planning system. These are not particular to Fenland but it does strike me as strange that this guy has been prosecuted for wrongly having windows installed in a row of cottages in New Road, Chatteris.
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“It makes you wonder who was responsible for the listing in the first place.”
Mr Melton said: “It is even more ironic as I cycle round the town in the morning and notice that within 100 yards of his house all the other cottages have plastic windows in them.
“It is also ironic that the Salvation Army Citadel in Chatteris – one of only two like it in the country- also has plastic windows.”
What was even more ironic, he said, was the fact that the King Edward Community Centre, Chatteris (which recently hosted a meeting to form a local civic society) “has plastic windows- and that is slap bang in the conservation area”.
He said: “These are the sort of inconsistencies which the public do not understand. They do all times blame the district council and our enforcement officers but quite frankly government departments do need to start talking to each other. These are the sort of anomalies that give local government and your profession a bad name.”
Earlier Mr Melton had promised a “complete overview and scrutiny” review of the planning system within Fenland.
Describing it as a “task and finish group” he promised a chairman would be appointed soon and a report published by the Spring.
He said the ultimate aim was to come up with a scheme compatible with emerging government polices and Fenland’s core strategy but is acceptable, too, locally.
He said witnesses from across all walks of life would give evidence to the committee.