Welwyn Garden City woman told front door has to go by council

PUBLISHED: 08:00 20 August 2019

An example of a black front door. Picture: Pixabay.

An example of a black front door. Picture: Pixabay.

Archant

A Welwyn Garden City resident was told by the borough council that she must change her front door, because it is too modern and the wrong colour.

Sandra Sirviene said she thought the door - which is black, with a long vertical handle to the left and a narrow glazed panel in the middle - was a vast improvement.

But she is one of 13,000 residents in Welwyn Garden City whose properties fall under the rules of the estate management scheme, and in February she was told by council officials that the door was "out of keeping" and would have to go.

On Wednesday, Ms Sirviene appealed to a meeting of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council's estate management panel to be allowed to keep the door.

READ MORE: Welwyn Garden City residents could be charged up to £500 for works

Asking to be "treated fairly", she pointed to more than 18 doors in close proximity to her own home, on The Croft, that were dark in colour or modern in design.

And she stressed that there was nothing in the estate management guidance - which she checked in advance of the work - to suggest the door would not be acceptable.

"People do not know," she said. "And there's no clear specification from the council. There is no specification of what is a modern door design."

Ms Sirviene even offered to change the colour of the new door, but the panel said it should go.

The council's principal development management officer Sarah Smith said that it was both the colour and the design of the door that were "out of keeping" with the property and the immediate street scene.

She stressed that if other doors in the vicinity were also out of keeping they did not have estate management consent - indicating that this would be looked at by council officers.

And she said that previously the door had been white, with glazing in the top half, in line with other properties falling within the scheme.

During the debate a number of councillors recognised the need for enforcement to be applied fairly and for the guidance to be clear.

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Conservative Cllr Fiona Thomson, who is also executive member for governance, public health and climate change, said that while she liked the door she agreed that it was "out of character" with the area, where the majority of doors were half glazed.

However Cllr Thomson accepted that there were a number of doors that did not meet the required standard. And she said she hoped officers would follow this up.

"It doesn't seem entirely fair we have some residents who are being picked up on their front doors," she said.

Labour Cllr Alan Chesterman - who voted against enforcement - said Ms Sirviene had done "just about everything she can" to stick to the rules, and that he had sympathy for her.

He said: "I think we have to look at the estate management and iron out all the wrinkles before we upset a lot more people."

Labour Cllr Lucy Musk said there was a lack of guidance from the council and that she was "extremely sympathetic".

"I don't think this is causing a huge issue to the street-scene - it's the poor parking and general mess there that creates an unwelcoming street-scene," Cllr Musk said.

And Liberal Democrat Cllr Siobhan Elam - who ultimately voted for the door to be allowed to stay - said there was a need to widen the definition and understanding of what was 'significantly out of character'.

"I am a strong supporter of the estate management scheme and I think its really important that we value it and support it," she said.

"I just have this awful feeling that because of the number of instances like this, we are in danger of undermining and destroying it, instead of supporting it."

She said she did not think the door could be said to be to the detriment of the property or the immediate street scene, and she said that doors had "moved on".

At the meeting the three Conservative councillors voted in favour of enforcement - tying the vote with two Labour councillors and one Lib Dem who voted against. The chair Cllr Harry Bower used his casting vote in favour of enforcement.

Lib Dem Cllr Anthony Dennis - who arrived a few minutes after the start of the item - was not allowed to take part in the debate or to vote.

During the hearing it was noted that the design guide of the EMS is currently subject to a period of public consultation, which closes on September 6 and can be viewed online here: wgc-ems.org/feedback/.

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