Disabled man living in ‘uninhabitable’ home with mouldy walls after council rejection

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Robert Whiley’s plans to build houses on land to fund his spiralling care costs have been refused by a council, leaving him unable to move from his dilapidated home in Tilstone Fearnall, Cheshire

Robert Whiley is incapable of living independently
Robert Whiley is incapable of living independently

A disabled man is living in an “uninhabitable” home with mould on the walls after a council planning rejection.

Robert Whiley, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and severe learning difficulties was cared for by his elderly father, until his death in 2020, Cheshire Live reports.

But plans to build houses on land to fund his spiralling care costs have been refused by a council, leaving him unable to move from his dilapidated home, deemed “uninhabitable” by an estate agent.

The property has now fallen into disrepair and living conditions are extremely poor, leaving a desperate plan to build homes on the land.

The project would have unlocked funds tied up in the land allowing Robert to move into a new home and have the professional care he needs.

The exterior or Robert Whiley’s one-up, two-down property in Tilstone Fearnall
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Image:

Chester Chronicle)

Robert Whiley’s bed had to be moved downstairs as he can no longer negotiate the steep stairs at his home
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Image:

Chester Chronicle)

But his hopes have been dashed by a planning refusal from Cheshire West and Chester Council

Robert’s care is now entrusted to three guardians; his cousin and two close friends who have been family friends for more than 60 years, who are all older than him.

They’ve expressed concerns about his current living situation and also “grave concerns for his future”, including funding sheltered accommodation if he outlives his guardians.

Cheshire Lamont, a local estate agent, inspected his property. Its report stated: “The property is in a particularly poor state of repair to the extent we would consider it to be uninhabitable.”

A planning application was submitted to Cheshire West and Chester Council in January, and again in November.

The application rested on Mr Whiley’s unique circumstances in order to build five detached family homes and three affordable homes on land attached to Mr Whiley’s cottage, similar to a recent development in Tilstone Fearnall, Cheshire.

The bathroom of Robert Whiley’s home in Tilstone Fearnall
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Image:

Chester Chronicle)

The lean-to kitchen at Robert’s one-up, two-down property
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Chester Chronicle)

Income from the project would’ve been used to move him into a modern home in Tarporley, then pay for sheltered accommodation if and when he needed it.

Planning permission was refused under delegated powers by a planning officer, and it didn’t go before a planning committee.

Planning agent David Taylor helped to put the application together.

He told CheshireLive : “We were seeking residential development to allow the guardians to raise funds to secure Robert’s future. His guardians are all older than Robert and it is likely the funds eventually would have secured sheltered living accommodation for Robert.

“Robert’s very special circumstances are unique and cannot be replicated. Demonstrable very special circumstances are sufficient to obtain a planning permission.

Robert Whiley’s bed in the sitting room of his home
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Image:

Chester Chronicle)

“Sadly, Robert’s decision was issued under delegated powers by a planning officer without the application being put to the planning board for elected members to decide.”

The application was refused on the grounds that the development was at odds with the local countryside development plan.

In the report, the planning officer said: “The overall development would have a detrimental impact on the open character of the countryside.

“Whilst material considerations (very special circumstances within the submission) have been submitted, the council do not consider that these are justified within the submission, or provides matters which would result in material consideration which would result in the granting of permission contrary to the development plan.

“In the opinion of the local planning authority there are no material considerations which would outweigh the conflict with the development plan.”

One of Mr Whiley’s guardians, Fred Langdon, 71, responded to the council’s ruling.

He said: “We know Robert’s needs are going to be many and we feel that we have to look towards the best option of selling the land. We’ve been put in charge of trying to get the best for Robert. Robert’s needs are going to be costly.

“We’re not trying to put this on the state, we’re trying to support Robert with money from his own land.

“For anyone to discount Robert’s very special circumstances without meeting Robert and seeing the state of Robert’s property is farcical.

“If we were to get Robert a dog, we’d be prosecuted for keeping an animal in an unfit condition. Things are coming down around his ears.

“His stairs are so steep that he’s fallen down them five times. We’ve had to insist that his bed comes down to the lounge, but there’s mould all over the walls. We’ve had to line the walls with polystyrene to stop the bed getting mouldy.

“Through to the kitchen, a colander would stop more water than the roof, and when it rains there are buckets all over the floor.

“With the amount of rain we’ve had, his kitchen is swimming. He’s getting to the stage where he is very, very low, and we’re getting frightened for his mental health.

“It needs to go before an elected committee, and they need to turn round and go and see for themselves, not stand with a cup of coffee at the breakfast table waving a pen. It’s peoples lives that they’re dealing with.

“The way things are going, he could spend another winter in there.”

Mr Whiley’s guardians have submitted another application, also to be decided under delegated powers by a planning officer.

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s deputy leader, Cllr Karen Shore said: “We have now seen the photos of Mr Whiley’s home and are concerned about his current living conditions.

“It’s clear that Mr Whiley may require support and we will be contacting him and his guardians to discuss his situation.

“In terms of the planning application, Mr Whiley is seeking planning permission to build eight new houses in the countryside.

“While his compelling personal circumstances have been taken into account, national and local planning policy is aimed at protecting the countryside and focusing new housing development in urban areas.

“This application was refused because it would be located in the countryside, rather than an urban area. The council is bound by local and national planning policy for the countryside.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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