A mum has won a planning appeal to build a bike shed in her home after Birmingham city council ruled it would diminish the character of her street.
Ruth Cumming, from Sellywood Road, Bournville, had applied for planning permission last year to install a “small hut-like structure” at the front of her three-bed terrace home to keep her family’s bikes secure.
After selling her car in January last year, the mum-of-four made the decision to go car-free due to rising fuel costs and her environmental impact. She lives close to the A38 cycle lane stretching from the city centre to Selly Oak, and said her family’s usage of cars had always been “very light”.
Ms Cumming appealed the decision this month. The planning inspector, on his site visit, concluded the proposed bike shed would not “detract” from the appearance of the street.
In his report, he stated: “At my site visit I saw that, whilst structures in front of principal elevations of the terrace are on the whole uncommon, most of its driveways play host to parked cars, wheelie bins and similar paraphernalia. Within this immediate context … the proposed development would not look incongruous.”
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), she said she was “delighted” at the decision.
“It was just confusing when we got the initial decision because on the one hand, the council try to encourage people to cycle more but on the other hand, they’re refusing secure storage, which is really important for people to actually use.
“It just felt like a bit of a disconnect between the policy areas. The whole planning process is very much set up for like people who know what they’re doing. We are not experts. We have no idea how to set up an application. It’s not something you do every day.”
Her family owns eight bikes between them, including a tandem bike and a cargo bike. They have already installed Sheffield Stands on their drive, but without the bike storage, there is no security for them. Some of their bikes are kept in their hallway.
Birmingham is currently undergoing a cycling revolution. Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) was awarded a £17 million government grant this month to boost active travel in cycling and walking across the region.
Despite a third allocation of the government’s active travel fund, a lack of secure cycle storage or parking is preventing 28% of the public from cycling or cycling more, according to a November 2020 survey by the Department for Transport.
In the same survey, renters and people in social housing were almost twice as likely to say a lack of bike storage is a serious problem on their streets than homeowners.
“Shivaji Shiva, a solicitor at VWV, the firm that represented Ms Cumming on a pro-bono basis, said: “It’s great news for Ruth and her family. They can get on and store their bikes in a less awkward location, and carry on with their inspiring car-free story.
“It’s also great news for other people who need cycle storage. I think people will be reassured that it’s not as hard to get permission as they might have thought.
“I see it as good for Birmingham city council too. The council has different roles – on the one hand it is doing brilliant and much needed work investing in cycling and walking to help people leave the car on the drive or give it up entirely.
“On the other hand, as the planning authority the council has to follow planning law and practice. The problem here was the mismatch between the way that planning decision was made, and the wider aspirations of the council.
“The reasoning was somewhat muddled and the result felt out of step with both planning policies and the council’s clear commitment to enabling residents who wish to choose active travel – and get around on foot or by cycle.”
Councillor Liz Clements, Labour councillor for Bournville & Cotteridge, said: ” I am pleased with this common sense outcome, and the council as the planning authority will look carefully at the judgement and will then apply the lessons learned. Ms Cumming is my constituent and what her family have done, in giving up their car and getting around with their four kids by bike, is inspirational.
“Birmingham city council wants to make it easier for everyone to cycle to ease congestion, meet our climate targets – and because it’s fun. We recognise bike storage is a big issue for many people living in flats and terraces and I hope that we can make the process of getting permission for a bike store easier in future.”
A Birmingham city council spokesperson said: “We have a strong record of ensuring that cycle storage space is incorporated into new developments rather than cars.
“However, in established residential areas, when residents want cycle storage in terraced properties, we have to consider the impact upon neighbouring homes and the street scene when reaching any decision on an application.
“All applications are treated on their individual merits and we will of course do everything we can to support proposals that are in line with planning policies.
“We note the findings of the appeal in this particular case and will bear this outcome in mind when determining applications in future.”
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