A HOMEOWNER was forced to dismantle and rebuild a decking area in her back garden after building it 40 centimetres too high.

Winefrede Duffy was prosecuted by Bolton Council for failing to comply with regulations stipulating decking must not be built any higher than 30 centimetres above ground level without planning permission.

The 59-year-old, who lives in Bolton Road, Westhoughton, pleaded guilty to the offence at Bolton Magistrates Court yesterday.

She was given a conditional discharge, and ordered to pay £125 towards the council’s investigation, a £200 contribution towards costs and a £20 victims surcharge.

The mother-of-one has since had the platform lowered from 70 centimetres to to the 30 permitted without planning permission - costing her more than £300 on top of the initial work, which was in the region of £2,500.

But she told the court she had not deliberately broken the rules, as she believed the platform was at ground level, — and had delayed lowering while seeking further advice.

Ms Duffy — who is a retired Bolton Council employee — said: “Unfortunately I had it done too high, I didn’t realise I had to have planning permission for decking.

“I realise I didn’t comply, but my factors were I didn’t know what was considered ground level , I thought my house was at ground level , I didn’t realise planning would be needed.

“The aim was to make the garden more accessible as I have friends with mobility problems, I didn’t wilfully break the law, I spent £900 on planning consultants to give me advice and I put in another planning application, but unfortunately that didn’t come to fruition.”

Decking: 'Petty' and 'ridiculous' - or just following the rules?

The mother-of-one also told magistrates that she had consulted her immediate next door neighbours who were happy the decking would enhance the area at the back of her home.

But it came as “a shock” when a neighbour living next door-but-one complained about the decking.

Speaking to The Bolton News after the court case Ms Duffy said she was "disappointed and bewildered" by the prosecution and she had felt she had "valid reasons" for not complying with the enforcement notice sooner.

She said: “I was surprised, I think it’s a nonsense, but I have to say I was found guilty of not complying with an enforcement notice.”

She continued: “I’m surprised it went to these lengths as it’s decking we’re talking about. The reason I didn’t think I should have put an application in is that, to me, it’s at ground level."

“I admit I didn’t comply with the enforcement notice, but I was making further investigations and taking further advice to back up my views and if I could keep the decking.”

Prosecutor Marcus Hirst told magistrates that the council had received a complaint about the decking in June 2016.

A retrospective planning application and an appeal had both been refused on the grounds of the impact on neighbouring residents, the character of the area and the openness of the greenbelt.

Mr Hirst added that a Ms Duffy had failed to respond to a letter sent in February this year requesting further information about how the enforcement notice had been complied with.