United Kingdom

Leicester City Council orders family to tear down illegal 'eco-friendly' bike shed

A family have been ordered to tear down the eco-friendly bike storage shed they built in their front garden or risk legal action.  

Kavi and Mita Pujara claim they are in a 'David vs Goliath' battle with Leicester City Council over the wooden shed which they built in their front garden on Stoneygate Road to keep their bicycles safe amid the coronavirus lockdown. 

Council officials wrote to the couple in February telling them they should not have built the bespoke timber shed -  which has a sedum grass roof - without seeking planning permission.

They said because the family live in a conservation area where planning restrictions are tighter, permission would likely not have been granted. 

They also warned the couple they could face enforcement action if they leave the shed standing.    

The couple are now battling to save the shed after it was deemed to be 'not in keeping with Victorian character of the area'.  

Kavi and Mita Pujara are in a 'David vs Goliath' battle with Leicester City Council over the small wooden shed which they build outside their property in Leicester

More than 300 people, from all over country, have shared their support for the couple by writing to the city council and urging officials to accept their retrospective application to be allowed to keep the shed. 

Mr Pujara said: 'We put the shed up in September, when because of lockdown, cycling was about the only thing we could get out and do.

'We now know we should have applied for permission at the time - and we are doing that now - but we didn't just throw it up.

'It wasn't cheap. We did our research.

'We found a sustainable eco-friendly shed which we think looks really good.

'The council is giving out mixed messages - on the one hand saying it wants to encourage environmentally friendly transport while then threatening people over their bike storage.'

The Pujaras said the storage shed - which they intend to camouflage with ivy - is the only way they and their children Milan, 12, and ten-year-old Anamika - can realistically get their bikes from their home to the street.

Mrs Pujara said: 'If we want to bring all four bikes out of the back of the houses we have sets of steps - and gates and locks.

'We timed it. It takes 15 minutes to get them out and ready.

The couple have also been warned they could face enforcement action if they leave the shed standing

Council officials said because the family live in a conservation area where planning restrictions are tighter, permission would likely not have been granted. Pictured: GV of Stoneygate Road

'The kids can't do it without help. From the shed it takes seconds and the children can be away pedalling. It's liberating and empowering for them.'

Mr Pujara added: 'There's a real disconnect between departments at the council. There's no joined up thinking.

'You can't say ''We want people to cycle' but then say 'You can't safely store your bikes outside your home''.'

He added: 'The shed is not an eyesore - it looks better than the parking car parking spaces other people have created in front of the homes on the street and they are permanent.

'Our little wooden shed is temporary. I could take it down in no time but we are trying to make a point.'

City councillor Lindsay Broadwell has now urged people to support the family's cause. 

She said: 'Today in Leicester putting a bike shed in your garden is apparently a planning breach, according to the council.

'We simultaneously want to encourage cycling but want to make it hard for people to store their bikes safely? But cars on-street is fine?

'You can write in support of the family and I encourage you to do so.

'The council's line is ''it's not in keeping with the Victorian character of the area''-the Victorians invented and popularised cycling. And sheds, for that matter.'

A city council spokesperson said: 'The householders have submitted a retrospective planning application regarding the bike shed, which will be considered in the usual way.

'No recommendation has yet been made on the application.' 

The family has also written to Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and his deputy mayor Adam Clarke asking them to intervene to allow the shed to remain.

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