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Shedgate, the Manchester edition: Planning permission likely to be refused for bike shed – since it would create ‘visual clutter’

Resident says council planner’s response is “Ridiculous” and reflects “A real lack of joined-up thinking”

A Manchester resident who contacted the city council to ask whether she would need to apply for planning permission for a bike shed you was considering installing in her front garden has been told that she would need to do so, and that such an application would probably not be approved due to the visual clutter the shed would apparently create.

The council instead told Dr Julia Kasmire, who describes the situation as “ridiculous,” that she could erect the bike shed in her back garden – although the narrowness of the  alleyway leading to it means it would be impossible to get a bike through there, and there is no access to the garden from the residents’ car park.

Dr Kasmire told road.cc: “The council have not actually turned down my bike shed application as I did not file for planning permission. Applying for planning permission is not a trivial expense, especially considering I would also need to budget for constructing it (and purchasing the cycle).

“Instead, I started by contacting the council to ask whether a bike shelter in the front garden would require planning permission. Their guidance does not make it clear as a bike shelter is not very tall, not electrified, doesn't need a big foundation, etc.

“In my original request for more info I mentioned that the area is a new build development (approximately 10 years old) so there are no issues of listed buildings, I am not asking for the council to build or pay for any bike parking (even though I might be eligible for disability-related funding), I am very aware that I would need to make the shelter attractive as well as secure (and suggested that I would like to cover it with plants in a ‘living roof’ style construction) and that I have an increasing need for a mobility aid but that I would prefer to use an active travel for as long as possible.”

In response, an official from Manchester City Council’s planning department told her that planning permission had been granted for the development in 2008.

“As part of the layout of the properties, you will see that there is a fixed building line for the properties to the frontage and should anything sit forward of that building line it would require planning permission, as the regulations state that permission would be required for anything that sits closer to the highway than the original dwelling,” the planning officer confirmed. “That would be the case in this instance.

“Should you submit an application to erect a cycle store in that location, it is highly unlikely to be supported. The City Council as local planning authority would not want to see visual clutter within the front gardens, as these should be the setting for the building, and such structures would be highly visible within the street scene,” the planning officer added.

“Given that these properties have rear gardens, it would be expected that such structures would be included within the private amenity space of a rear garden and depending on the size of the proposed cycle store it may well not require planning permission.”

Manchester friont garden 01 (picture courtesy Dr J Kasmire)

Dr Kasmire told us that besides the issue of ‘visual clutter’, “The response also points out that I have a back garden. This is true. However, my back garden is not suitable as it is requires going through two gates, down a narrow ginnel, and through a sharp turn.

“The front or ‘street end’ of the ginnel is blocked by bins and the back is frequently blocked by cars as the interior of the block has designated residence parking.

“A strong and fit person might just about get a standard bike through by rolling it on the back wheel only. I would probably not be able to do that (or at least wouldn’t be able to for long). I also hoped to get a non-standard bike with three wheels, both for my own stability and as a way to avoid more car use on big shopping trips. There is no way a trike or cargo bike would get down that ginnel and into my garden.

“Despite the fact that my house was specifically designed and built to be accessible for wheelchairs (which I do not need to use right now), there is no allowance for disability access in the garden or interior resident parking area – no extra wide spaces, no ‘keep clear’ access space, etc.

“Even if I were to get a car instead of a bike when I am no longer able to walk, I would not always be able to go from the interior parking to my garden as cars are frequently parked too close together outside the gate that leads to the ginnel.

“To be clear, I have also tried to get the group that manages my block (e.g. maintains the interior parking area) to agree to letting me put a bike shelter in my designated parking space,” Dr Kasmire continued.

“They too seem reluctant as their rules say residents are not allowed to store anything in the parking spaces. While clearly a lie (residents store cars in the parking spaces), my efforts to point out the need for disability equality have gone unanswered.”

She added: “The whole thing is ridiculous in the circumstances – climate emergency, health crisis, disability access equality legislation. A real lack of joined-up thinking.”

Manchester fiont garden 03 (picture courtesy Dr J Kasmire)

Earlier this year, a bike shed in Leicester made national headlines after the city council ordered the householder who had installed it to dismantle it because it was out of keeping with the Victorian character of the area.

> Shedgate: Victory for family as bike shed application approved

The homeowner, Kavi Pujara, pointed out that other houses on the street had converted their front gardens into driveways, saying that having cars parked outside didn’t exactly reflect the Victorian character either.

He was eventually granted planning permission after the issue was reviewed following the intervention of the city’s mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby.

Manchester is one of the 10 metropolitan boroughs that together make up Greater Manchester, and writing on Twitter Dr Kasmire asked the latter’s mayor, Andy Burnham, if there was anything he could do to help.

> Councils criticised for sending out mixed messages over bike sheds

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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