Prestonpans: House to have windows bricked up due to vandalism

THE owner of an historic house on the corner of Prestonpans’ Preston Road and West Loan has been given permission to ‘brick up’ ground-floor windows after years of grief at the hands of vandals.

Owned by Anna Dunbar, the property, at Preston Farm, has suffered ongoing vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

Built in 1824, it is within a conservation area but council officials have approved a planning application for some windows to be infilled with stone.

Mrs Dunbar had reported anti-social behavior to the council as far back as January 2015.

In the planning application, she stated that she had been the victim of “multiple weekly incidents involving school children and teenagers knocking/hammering on the windows and shouting abusive language”.

Additionally, windows on the south and east elevations sit close to street level and “have been regularly targeted by vandals such that these windows have been smashed on multiple occasions”.

East Lothian Courier: East Lothian Council planning portalEast Lothian Council planning portal (Image: East Lothian Council planning portal)

This image shows how the house would look with the windows infilled. Image: East Lothian Council planning portal

The East Lothian Council anti-social behavior team consulted on the planning application said that there was “justification” for the alterations to the building.

It had been made aware of numerous complaints of anti-social behavior in the vicinity of the property and was still making efforts to address the issue.

The brick infills will see the conservation area lose the white-painted, timber-framed, sash-and-case windows that council planners said “positively contribute to the character and appearance” of the town.

Council planners admitted they would not normally support such an application as it “would change, and somewhat alter, the character and appearance of the house and the character and appearance of this part of the Preston Conservation Area”.

However, the applicant’s supporting statement was accepted as the only method of preventing anti-social behavior in the area.

It stated that the alterations were required “to combat against ongoing vandalism to the windows on a long-term basis and to prevent the frequent anti-social behavior issues that the applicant and her family endures”.

Additionally, it was noted and accepted that other measures had been considered but these did not provide a viable long-term solution.

‘Sufficient justification’

East Lothian Council planners granted permission for the alterations on the condition that the windows be infilled with a natural stone (to be approved by officials) that would “be in keeping with the external finishes of the existing house”.

A council spokesperson said: “When reviewing this application, planning officers considered the repeated and sustained damage that has been caused to the property and the reasons for the proposals. The applicant was able to evidence clear reasons why this work was required and a commitment to minimizing the impacts on the conservation area by using natural stone.

“Having consulted with the safer communities team, officers concluded that there was sufficient justification to approve the proposals.

“Planning permission was granted subject to a condition requiring that a sample of the natural stone is submitted in advance for approval, in order to protect the character of the conservation area.”

DJ Johnston-Smith, chairman of Prestonpans Community Council, was concerned at such alterations in a conservation area.

He said: “Colleagues on our community council and local residents have expressed serious concerns about the dramatic impact this development will have on the historic streetscape of this part of our town.

“Given that the proposal is to make a fairly significant change to a building in one of the two conservation areas in Prestonpans, a separate and distinct communication from the local authority planning department notifying the community council of this application would have been very welcome.

“We would certainly have requested much more detail from the applicant than can be found in the planning application to try to understand why such a major alteration to the exterior of one of the historic landmarks in the town is absolutely necessary.

“According to the relevant 1997 act, conservation areas are localities ‘of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’.

“It certainly remains to be proven how this proposed change is consistent with that stated aim of preservation or enhancement.”

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