A disgruntled builder has erected a gargoyle on his roof that resembles a town councilor who rejected his planning request.
Michael Thomas, 71, was furious when his plan to convert an old pizza takeaway into a three-storey, seven bedroom, house in multiple occupation (HMO), was rejected.
Trowbridge Town Council leader Stewart Palmen objected to the project and put an enforcement notice in place to halt the building project.
Thomas has now taken his revenge by placing a stone gargoyle of Palmen on his roof.
The effigy - sporting half-moon spectacles and sticking his tongue out - now adorns the side of the disputed property in the Wiltshire town.
Palmen, 61, said he was "flattered" by the gargoyle which appeared on the building last week.
He said: “It's just been quite amusing. He just started constructing [the HMO] without any planning permission in 2020.
“I reported him to enforcement and in the end, he applied, and it was refused along with his appeals.
“He's taken it quite personally and believes the council have dobbed him in.
“He seems to have vendetta against myself – but I quite like gargoyle and would love for it to stay.
“I don’t have an issue with it but there is a serious side to it, there’s a court date on the fact he hasn’t returned the building to what it was.”
Thomas found himself at the centre of legal action from Wiltshire Council after he continued building work on the Newtown property despite an enforcement notice.
After being issued a temporary stop notice on the project, he vowed to complete the conversion.
Following objections from Palmen and local residents, the stop notice was superseded by an enforcement notice in September 2020.
Thomas then applied for planning permission which was refused by Wiltshire Council in June 2022.
The council refused the project saying it "detracts from the character and appearance of the area".
In May this year, an inspector upheld the council's decision after Thomas launched yet another appeal.
In retaliation, the builder launched a protest against the council by attaching a banner to the scaffolding around the property.
Grand designs: 7 properties with planning permission (Yahoo Finance)
It read: “Wiltshire council invests time and energy in green field developments and long developers outside and around Trowbridge at a profit while actively hindering small building developers trying to fill a need for accommodation for those who do not qualify for the more expensive out of town accommodation.”
The building itself is not listed, but is located in a conservation area.
In June Thomas said he was even willing to go to prison over the dispute. He fumed: “They don’t follow the rules, they make them up as they go along.
"If council officers are not following the rules, why should I?
“I am going to carry on building against their order and allow them to take me to court.
“I am not afraid of going to jail, I have been jailed twice before and I’m told that these days they have toilets and televisions so I don’t think that it will be a hardship.”
Thomas has been ordered to attend Swindon Magistrates' Court on 27 October to face a charge of failing to comply with the enforcement notice.
Can you turn a commercial property into residential in the UK?
Until 2015, there were strict restrictions on converting commercial spaces, such as high street retail premises, warehouses and industrial units into residential property. However, changes to the law under the Tory/Lib Dem coalition relaxed this and made it much easier to convert commercial to residential property.
Since 2015, many commercial buildings have been eligible to be converted into homes. However, there are exceptions, for example listed buildings, buildings classed as being within safety hazard areas (such as those on former industrial estates/factory sites), buildings situated on designated areas of outstanding natural beauty, ones within national parks or conservation areas, and those in areas of scientific interest.
Planning permission is still often needed, and specific regulations must be adhered to. The property must meet specific size, access, and amenity standards.