A YORK hotelier who claimed a council legal order would have forced her business to close is celebrating after winning an appeal.
The Planning Inspectorate ruled yesterday that the Grade I listed Grays Court does have the relevant planning permission to operate as a boutique hotel.
The decision has been welcomed by the hotel’s delighted owner Helen Heraty, who says she has suffered “acute stress and anxiety” throughout the ordeal.
Mrs Herarty’s partner John Edwards collapsed and died in front of her several hours after a meeting to discuss the issue with City of York planning officials last January. She believes the stress he was suffering over the future of the hotel played a part in his death.
The dispute surrounds residents’ complaints about noise and disturbance coming from events at Grays Court, which lies in the shadow of York Minster.
The wrangle culminated in a public inquiry after Mrs Heraty appealed against an enforcement notice imposed by the council, ordering the hotel to stop hosting weddings and other dining functions.
The council claimed Grays Court did not have the relevant planning permission for such events and needed to submit a retrospective planning application. During the inquiry, neighbour Kevin Mohan and the Dean and Chapter of the Minster spoke about the impact of noise on the area.
However, Mrs Heraty claimed the hotel would not be viable without those functions and as a result would have to close, with a loss of 20 jobs.
Following the two-day inquiry last month, the planning inspector has now ruled in favour of Mrs Heraty, upholding her view that planning permission granted in 2006 for use as a B&B covered the property’s use as a hotel.
Making the ruling, inspector John Braithwaite said: “Planning permission is not required when existing and proposed uses of a building are in the same class.
“The permitted principal use of Grays Court as bed and breakfast premises falls within use class C1 and planning permission is not required for the change of the principal use of the building to a hotel, and all other uses are ancillary uses to the principal use of Grays Court as a hotel.
“The change of use alleged in the enforcement notice does not constitute a breach of planning control”.
Mr Braithwaite also pointed out that conditions imposed when the business was granted a premises licence by the council in 2011 included 21 stipulations imposed to protect nearby residents.
Mrs Heraty said yesterday: “I am delighted that the inspector has reached this decision. This is total vindication of the position that John and I held, that we had full and lawful planning permission to operate as a hotel.
“This was also the position of the council until planning officers changed their minds following pressure from Kevin Mohan.
“John and I had to endure years of acute stress, and anxiety. This ordeal has affected my health and peace of mind, and I have no doubt that this stress contributed in some way to John’s sudden and untimely death.”
She said: “We met to discuss our concerns that the case being constructed against our business here at Grays Court was motivated by third party interference and not based in actual planning law.”
Darren Richardson, director of city and environmental services at the council, said: “We believe we acted in good faith throughout this process in accordance with legal advice and within established planning frameworks, and would not have considered taking this action had we thought it wasn’t the right approach to take. While we are disappointed with the inspector’s final decision, we respect the outcome and will of course review our future processes in-line with this.
“We appreciate this has been a unique and complex case, but it’s important that we now move forwards and we look forward to working with Grays Court in future.”