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Shedgate: Planning officers “got it wrong” says Leicester mayor

“Providing a space to store bikes is going to be increasingly important,” says Sir Peter Soulsby

The ​Mayor of Leicester says the city council’s planning officers “have got it wrong” in telling a family they are unlikely to receive planning permission for a bike shed they have erected in their front garden, and has urged for the issue to be referred to the planning committee.

As we reported on our live blog last week, Kavi Pujara's family have been told that they could face enforcement action to remove the bike shed because they live in a conservation area.

> Leicester City Council wants family's homemade eco bike shed removed because it is not in keeping with the Victorian character of the area

The family have received numerous messages of support since the story broke, including on the council’s planning portal, and a decision on the “'retrospective application for construction of bike shed at front of house” should be made by 20 May – a week tomorrow.

In a statement posted to Twitter yesterday, Sir Peter Soulsby, the former Labour MP for Leicester South who resigned in April 2011 to run for the newly created position of elected mayor of the East Midlands city, outlined why he believed planning officers had been too strict in interpreting the rules.

“As mayor, I do not and will not decide planning applications but on this one I believe that the officers have got it wrong.

“The shed is well screened from the road and much less of a problem than if the residents tarmacked the garden and parked a car on it.

“Providing a space to store bikes is going to be increasingly important,” he continued.

“I know the planning officers were doing their job to protect the conservation area and very much support that work, but this time they’ve got the balance wrong.

“As the elected representative of the residents, I will be asking for this decision to be taken to the planning committee where councillors can have an opportunity to reach their own independent conclusion,” he added.

According to figures obtained by Cycling UK following a Freedom of Information request to councils across England, Leicester was the fifth-highest spending local authority last year in terms of spending per head on active travel, at £20.97.

The council has won plaudits for pop-up infrastructure it put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic, making the planning department’s stance over the bike shed difficult to comprehend.

Mr Pujara had first highlighted the problem on Facebook, where he wrote: “We are a family of four cyclists who last September made an eco bike shed in our front garden.

“It is made of sustainably grown wood and has a sedum living roof. Other houses in the same terrace have converted their front gardens to driveways for parking multiple cars – so there really isn't a homogeneous Victorian look to the street anyway.”

In a subsequent post, he asked the council: “How about some joined-up thinking here? If the city is serious about promoting cycling should you not get serious about storage solutions for cycles too?

“I understand that sheds in front gardens aren't a permitted development, but we do need to store bikes somewhere. Perhaps with some planning guidance on building a bike shed from the council we could do this in a harmonious way and really be a cycle-friendly city.”

The family’s cause is being supported by Labour councillor Lindsay Broadwell, who said last week: “Today in Leicester putting a bike shed in your garden is apparently a planning breach, according to the council.

“We simultaneously want to encourage cycling but want to make it hard for people to store their bikes safely? But cars on-street is fine? 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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