Resident facing 'pathetic' court battle with council over parking in her own driveway

Jenny Cummings says her council have accused her of running a vehicle recovery business from her home which she denies
Jenny Cummings says her council have accused her of running a vehicle recovery business from her home which she denies -Credit:WalesOnline/Rob Browne

A resident is being threatened with court after refusing to comply with a council order to take down floodlights and move vehicles from outside her own driveway. Jenny Cummings said she is facing the action as she has refused to comply with the terms of the order, which she has called "pathetic."

Jenny, 44, lives at Grey House Farm in St Brides Wentlooge, between Cardiff and Newport, with her husband and two of their children. They moved to the property which has three acres of farm land, in February 2021 and initially had some work done on their house.

Jenny said this resulted in a dispute with their neighbour which led to several complaints being lodged with Newport City Council. "When we first moved in we wanted to renovate and put an extension," she told WalesOnline.

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"We had planning, health and safety etc out and it was all fine. We moved into a property three years ago and had problems with our neighbours, who have reported us to the council."

Jenny said the issues have escalated and resulted in she and her husband being given an enforcement order by Newport City Council asking them to stop parking vehicles they use for their vehicle recovery company on their driveway.

Jenny said the council is accusing the couple of operating the vehicle recovery firm from their home, but she says this has never been the case. "We generally park two vehicles - sometimes a truck, sometimes a van - from the recovery company," she said.

"They are the size of vans, not huge HGVs, which we would actually have room for [in our driveway]. We've been told it is because my husband goes out at all hours of night.

"Now and again there might be a job that comes in between 7 and 7am, but it is only my husband and son running it so there aren't many of those jobs. We rent a commercial unit down the road and actually moved here to be closer to the unit, where we have trucks etc.

"The council say they think we are running a business. We have tried to explain to them we aren't and just park the vehicles here sometimes - does a plumber not take his car home if he gets an emergency job?"

Jenny said they sometimes park recovery vans in their driveway but that they have a commercial unit where larger ones are kept. Jenny said they have also been told to remove a set of small floodlights from the land, which light an area where apple trees grow.

But she says taking down the lights would be "stupid" and could result in people tripping on fallen apples in the dark or in the winter. They have also been told to take down a single CCTV camera, which she installed after her home was vandalised, due to privacy concerns, to remove a small storage cabin in the corner of their land, and to move an unused children's swing to another area of the property.

But Jenny said they had not complied with the notice as the council had not offered any evidence of them running a business from their home and she doesn't think they are doing anything wrong.

"We don’t believe we are doing anything wrong. We aren’t running a business, the camera is there for protection, that cabin is tucked away in a corner and not harming anyone. We think it’s stupid to take the floodlights down."

Jenny said they are due to appear in court on May 23 for non-compliance with the council notice, which could result in prosecution. Despite this, she said they will not be complying.

She said they could have appealed the notice but that she did not do so as her grandson had just been born at the time and it "wasn't a top priority," adding: "In our minds it is pathetic."

Jenny said she didn't know how much she could be fined but that there seemed little alternative other than appearing in court. She added: "I think the only option is to turn up in court.

"I’ve spoken to a solicitor who is going to arrange a meeting. As far as I was concerned I am not doing anything wrong.

“We’ll definitely be fined. We don’t know how much. I suppose if we go to court and they find us guilty, I worry what will happen.

"My husband would still park on his drive - would we still go to prison then? Would it go that far?

"We have a yard down the road but to jump in the car and go down there in his oily clothes doesn’t make sense." Jenny added that the road they live on suffers from noise issues due to large vehicles passing frequently, which she feels is much more disruptive than what they are doing.

“On this road, you’ve got these trucks taking rubbish down to recycling from 6am and our house shakes because of it, but we are used to it. The sound our vehicles make is the exact same as a car would be.

“We already have noise in this area and we are not contributing to it. It’s already here. I have spoken to other neighbours in our area and they have no problem with anything we are doing.

"It’s ridiculous. We are not disrupting neighbours. We have hectic lives. We are in bed at 8pm."

Jenny said she had requested mediation on several occasions in order to stop them being reported to the council, but that nothing had happened. She added that the past few years had impacted her mentally and physically.

"I’ve lost loads of weight, I’m back and forth to the doctor with stomach problems. I asked if it could be stress and they said it could be. I get anxious. My husband is the same. It goes quiet for a while and we forget about it.

"We have sleepless nights about it. It’s just constant. We’ve got other things in our lives that are more important. We have family members who are ill.”

A Newport City Council spokesperson said: "In September 2021, the council began the process of taking formal enforcement action against an unauthorised commercial use of this site, namely by a breakdown recovery, mobile tyre fitting and vehicle transportation business, as informal routes had not resolved the planning breach.

"The owners were informed they had the right to lodge an appeal against the enforcement notice with the independent inspectorate, Planning and Environment Decisions Wales. No appeal was ever made and the notice is now in effect.

"The notice has not been complied with and, as a result, the council is now taking the next step in seeking to end the continued unauthorised use of the site. The case will be heard by magistrates in May and it would be inappropriate to comment further while legal proceedings are still ongoing."