Woman faces court battle with council for parking on her own driveway

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Jenny Cummings in Newport said the council has accused her of running a vehicle recovery business from home, which she says is not true -Credit:WalesOnline/Rob Browne

A woman has been threatened with court action after refusing to comply with a council order to take down floodlights and move vehicles from outside her own driveway. Jenny Cummings and her husband and two children moved to the property 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.

Now they have been given an enforcement order by the council asking them to stop parking vehicles they use for their car recovery company on their driveway at Grey House Farm, which has three acres of farm land, in St Brides Wentlooge, between Cardiff and Newport.

"When we first moved in we wanted to renovate and put an extension," she said. "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," reports Wales Online.

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 asserts that the council falsely accuses them of operating a vehicle recovery business from their home.

"We generally park two vehicles - sometimes a truck, sometimes a van - from the recovery company," she states, clarifying that these are not the HGVs, despite having enough room for such in their driveway, but just the size of vans.

She reveals, "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 7pm and 7am, but it is only my husband and son running it so there aren't many of those jobs."

Responding to claims from the council that they run a business from home, she said: "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 also highlights the council's requests for a set of small floodlights to be removed from their land, which illuminates an area growing apple trees. She believes removing the lights won't be sensible, as people could trip over fallen apples in the dark or wintertime.

Finally, she states they've been asked to remove a lone CCTV camera installed after her property was vandalised due to privacy concerns, dismantle a petite storage cabin on their land and relocate an unused children's swing to another part of the property. But Jenny has stated they haven't adhered to the notice, as the council hasn't provided any proof of them operating a business from their home, and she believes they're not in the 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 mentioned they're set to face court on May 23 due to not complying with the council's notice, which might lead to prosecution. Nevertheless, she insists they won't be following the order.

She explained they could have contested the notice but chose not to since her grandson had just been born at the time and it "wasn't a top priority", also stating: "In our minds it is pathetic."

"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 pointed out that their residential street already suffers from noise disturbances caused by frequent passing of large vehicles, which she feels is much more intrusive than what their small business activity contributes.

"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."

On several occasions, Jenny suggested mediation to prevent further reports to the council, but nothing had come of it yet. She admitted that the stress of the situation over these past years had significantly affected her mental and physical health.

"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 experiences 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 spokesperson for Newport City Council 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."