Mum in £7,000 legal fight with council to use £20,000 garden cabin for creche


A creche owner has vowed to fight a planning dispute after her local council issued an enforcement action saying the £20,000 structure doesn’t meet the requirements.

Currently, mum-of-one, Holly Fitzsimons uses the outbuilding to help host a child-minding business at the the rear of her garden.

However, the timber building, was refused a change of use application by Stockton Council in 2020 and its continued use has sparked enforcement action from the authority.

Nonetheless, the determined 27-year-old who helps run Little Oaks from her mum’s Beckfields home for more than three years is vowing to fight planning chiefs, according to Teesside Live.

Problems began after Holly received mixed messages on planning permission required for the timber building. Ms Fitzsimons revealed she’d spent £7,000 so far in fees to mount her opposition to the council’s stance.

And she couldn’t believe the authority was going after her. Ms Fitzsimons said: “It’s ridiculous really.

“I know the council are happy for me to child-mind – and they’re saying the building (itself) is permitted. But I thought I wouldn’t need planning permission.”

Kitted out with a kitchenette and play facilities, the smart timber-clad outhouse was built in 2018 at a cost of £20,000.

Ms Fitzsimons told the Local Democracy Reporting Service how the building was used by youngsters for play time – while the family home nearby was used for naps and other activities.

Holly is facing a tough battle with the local council over the timber outbuilding
Holly is facing a tough battle with the local council over the timber outbuilding

Initially, the mum-of-one said officials told her she wouldn’t need extra planning permission for a “change of use” at the outhouse.

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However, she added council staff then told her this wasn’t the case. “It’s frustrating as you can imagine,” added Ms Fitzsimons.

The business owner also revealed she’d spent thousands signing up a planning consultant to mount the fight. She added: “I’m only trying to child-mind and look after my community.

“But they’re trying to bring me down to be honest. My point is – what’s the difference between a shed at the back and a conservatory in a house?”

Ms Fitzsimons said she was not willing to move her business unless the authority was willing to find her another property for her work. She said: “They’re trying to say we’re using the timber building purely for business – but we use the house alongside it.

“My points to them are I don’t even open 12 weeks of the year so I’m not even at the premises with the children (then). Second of all, the home is used for napping, eating and down time and, with children, that can take a long time.

“The actual amount of playing time in that building is not very long at all.” The retrospective change of use application drew two objection letters from neighbors – with worries about traffic on nearby Fountains Avenue and noise from children in the building.

The creche includes a kitchenette and play area with toys for the children
The creche includes a kitchenette and play area with toys for the children

In its refusal, the council argued the building had been created “for the sole purpose of being a child-minding facility” and therefore needed permission in its own right. However, there were no objections from council environmental health or highways departments.

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Ms Fitzsimons didn’t agree with the final verdict – adding the outbuilding was used regularly for family gatherings. She added: “People have bars and pubs in their garden which are lairy – this is quiet, and on some days you’ll only have one or two children.”

The new mum also revealed a significant sum had been spent on a side door to the cabin which had now been fenced off to stop access from Fountains Avenue.

A Stockton Council spokesperson said: “A retrospective planning application for the change of use of a rear timber outbuilding for a child minding business was refused in 2020.

“The applicant did not appeal that decision. The council recently served an enforcement notice requiring the use of the outbuilding for a child-minding business to be ceased.

“This notice has been appealed and the appeal will now be determined by the Planning Inspectorate.”

Officials say the requirement to comply with the enforcement notice has been suspended for now pending the result of the appeal.

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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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