Friday, January 29th 2010

Letter to my MP

I’m still fuming over the way my first planning application was handled and the lack of follow up leading to an appeal. I’m far from happy about the solution being proposed and how it will affect my quality of life. I’m absolutely convinced that the side extension is the way to go but having received some feedback yesterday from In Touch about how long it would take to appeal and my chances of success, I am also conscious of wasting too much time. But before I give up altogether there are a couple of things I want to try. One is to try and meet with the case officer in the planning department to try and put my case forward on the grounds of health. The other is to try and elicit the help of my local MP. Below is a copy of the letter that I seem to have spent half the day writing. It will be interesting to see what kind of response I get. To be honest I don’t hold out much hope but I do feel that at times we need to challenge the decisions we are given and not just except them if we know that they are not in our best interest.

* * *

Hello, my name is Mark and I have a terminal illness called motor neurone disease which is spreading through my body wasting the muscle tissue away and leaving me paralysed. I have been living with this awful disease for almost 3 years now. In that time it has totally destroyed the life I had: I’ve had to give up work at Eli Lilly which I loved as well as give up driving. These days I am almost completely dependent on a team of carers to look after me. Even this letter is being dictated using speech recognition software as I can no longer use my hands for anything.

Last year the disease reached a point where it became obvious I would not be able to get up and down the stairs. In conjunction with my OT various options were looked at and it was decided that a downstairs bedroom and bathroom would give me everything that I needed and allow me to continue living in my house. A planning application was submitted last year to build a single-storey side extension to the house that would utilise the narrow strip of garden. The planning application has been refused on the grounds that if they allowed this one to go through it would set a precedent for all corner houses. There is also mention of wishing to keep the open spaces on the estate. However to my mind an open space is what I have directly in front of the house i.e. a playing field with swings, and not my tiny strip of garden. If there is such an objection to building close to the pavement then I would point out that the house opposite me, has its front door almost on the pavement – and this is a huge house!

I’m being told by In Touch, the company project managing the extension, as appointed by the Council, that an appeal could take up to 12 weeks and has only in their opinion a 20% chance of success. My health in recent weeks has continued to decline to the point where my legs are so unreliable that I can barely walk to the bathroom (I already took a fall late last year that put me into hospital because my stairlift was not completed in time). I am now trapped in the upstairs of my house and cannot even go out for fresh air as using the stairlift (which was only ever seen as a temporary solution until the extension was built) has become too risky. I desperately need to get the extension built so that I have full access to all the amenities I need on one floor as well as easy access out of the house which at the moment is going to be very difficult for medical appointments.

Is there any way that you might be able to intervene on my behalf to either overturn the rejection or expedite an appeal? Because MND is a progressive disease I do not have the luxury of waiting 12 weeks for a decision especially if the chances are only 20%. My need for this extension is on the grounds of health and a desire to preserve some small quality-of-life whilst I’m still here. I do not wish to spend the remainder of my life trapped upstairs; one month has been bad enough. I feel that my request is far from being unreasonable. My neighbours are completely sympathetic to my needs and have no objections to the extension being built. In fact it’s interesting to note that according to the planning website not a single objection was raised and yet I’m still being prevented from building quite a small structure on my own ground which I own outright. The extension does not block anybody’s view, cast a shadow on anybody’s ground, or create a blind spot. I already have a brick wall running parallel to the pavement that closes off my garden so it is hard to see why there should be any objection to basically continuing that only a bit higher.

One other thing I should mention is that a second planning application has more recently been made, but this time to build on the rear of the house. This application has just been granted however the location is far from ideal and should be seen as an extreme last resort because:

  1. There is a drain cover adjacent to the patio (apparently there is a drop of something like 9 feet into a sewer) that would end up situated in the new extension. I would feel very uncomfortable knowing that there is a sewer cover so close to my bed especially if you can hear running water as you can at the moment when standing on the patio. There would also be the concern of smell seepage. And of course there would still need to be some form of inspection cover in case access was ever needed.
  2. The rear extension would swallow up virtually all the garden, creating spots which are inaccessible for maintenance whilst the remainder could no longer be seen either from the extension or the dining room. Because my mobility is so limited and because I used to enjoy the outdoors and my garden so much, being able to sit on the patio in my wheelchair is one of the few pleasures I have left. Losing the garden would deprive me of further quality-of-life.
  3. A rear extension would block off most of the light coming into the dining room creating a very dingy atmosphere. It is this area that I would have to spend most of my day working on my computer but without the patio windows to look out of it would be a very dull and depressing work environment. I want to be able to continue to look out of my patio window and enjoy looking at the garden, the trees, the sky etc.
  4. I’m also being told that building foundations over such a deep drain would not be easy or cheap. Presumably it would also impact construction time.

It is for all of these reasons that the side extension was chosen in the first place as the best and most logical place for a small bathroom and bedroom. My OT and health care professional team are all in complete agreement with me.

Because time is limited I feel under pressure to go for this second solution even though I really don’t want it as I know I’m going to feel very depressed with what I will have to give up. But before that happens I really wanted to approach you first to see if you would be able to please intervene in some capacity in the hope that you may be able to get the planners to appreciate the health needs associated with this request and not just process it as a straightforward planning application. Would it be too much to ask if you could please look into this matter at the earliest opportunity because unfortunately with MND time is everything.

Thank you for spending the time to read my letter.

Yours sincerely

Mark

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One Response to Friday, January 29th 2010

  1. That was a very well written letter Mark and I wish you all the luck in the World getting your side extension. xx

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