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Planning row puts Grays Court’s future at risk
THE owner of an historic building in the shadow of York Minster claims council legal action could destroy her business.
City of York Council has issued an enforcement notice against Grays Court owner Helen Heraty, ordering her to halt wedding and other dining functions, and also close the tearoom, by 9pm on all but two nights a month.
The authority claims Mrs Heraty has been running an hotel in the Grade 1 listed building without planning permission and wants her to submit a retrospective planning application.
But Mrs Heraty says such an early closure would ruin the business she has been building up since 2009 and cause the loss of 25 jobs, and she will appeal to take the matter to a public inquiry. “What hotel can cease to function after 9pm, and what wedding function can stop at that time?” she asked.
She also claimed she already had permission for an hotel, citing an email from planning official Richard Beal in February 2010, which stated: “You are entitled to use the property as an hotel, without requiring further planning consent for change of use.’”
However, in July 2010, senior planning official Michael Slater emailed her, saying: “The premises cannot lawfully be used as an hotel without a further planning permission being granted.”
Mrs Hegarty revealed that her partner John Edwards collapsed and died in front of her several hours after a meeting to discuss the planning issue with senior council officials in January this year. She believes the stress he was suffering over the future of the hotel played a part in his death from arrhythmia.
A council spokesman said the meeting, which took place at Mr Edward’s request, had been “cordial, positive and productive,” adding: “Everyone who knew Mr Edwards was deeply shocked at his death and our thoughts continue to be with his family.”
The Press has previously reported neighbouring residents’ concerns about noise and disturbance from events at Grays Court, and a licensing application also attracted objections from the Minster’s Dean and Chapter who claimed the area’s relative tranquillity would be damaged.
However, Mrs Heraty said Grays Court was a nice place which attracted a “certain clientele” and every effort would be made to prevent any problems as guests left.
The council spokesman said it had always been a complex planning issue, given the residential environment in which the business had been operating.
“The council could have enforced aspects of planning law earlier but the use of the building has been evolving over time and the council’s interests have been in supporting the owners of Grays Court to develop a thriving business within the planning rules.
“We strongly encourage Ms Heraty to apply for retrospective planning permission for Grays Court to allow us to establish an appropriate and legal planning consent within which she can operate successfully.”
He added that “aspects of advice” given in February 2010 were incorrect and this was brought to Ms Heraty and Mr Edward’s attention as soon as the error had been identified. “The background to the error was explained in full to the owners of Grays Court and the action they were recommended to take to secure planning permission remain the same.”
Responding to claims by Mrs Heraty that the council itself had used Grays Court for a number of conferences, he said the authority wished to see businesses in the city prosper “and we promote them and buy services from them where we can.”