The former Frankie and Benny’s restaurant at The Hough Retail Park was converted into a prestige car showroom with an outside vehicle display and parking area to the west after Stafford Borough Council granted planning consent in 2018.
But a planning officer later found an area outside the building that was to be landscaped as part of the permitted development had been gravelled.
In March 2020 Foxearth Sports, Prestige And 4×4 Ltd submitted an application seeking temporary six-month retrospective permission for change of use of the area to allow display and storage of cars while approved work to the main parking and display area was carried out. But last month Stafford Borough Council rejected the proposal on the grounds it harmed the character and appearance of the conservation area.
This month the council’s planning committee was asked to agree to enforcement action, including court proceedings and work to secure the removal of the vehicles and gravel surface treatment.
Members voted unanimously for enforcement action to go ahead.
Councillor Marnie Phillips said: “I remember sitting in the public gallery for this when it went to committee and the concern over how this was going to affect the outlook of the area.
“Councillors were enthusiastic about making sure this building was filled and that it didn’t fall into disarray and a business did take it on – but it was on the understanding that that green space was to stay there. The fact that the tree disappeared almost immediately raised lots of eyebrows locally as you can well imagine.
“This angers me every time I drive past it, to find that all that green space has now gone and the applicant has basically done whatever they wanted to do, with complete disregard for the planning committee and the running of the council, because I know it is not supposed to look like that. I want it to look how it looked before they decided to make it look the way they wanted it to look.
“I absolutely support enforcement on this because this kind of behaviour has to stop.”
Councillor Jack Kemp said: “This is the house of English Electric and GEC, where if you were invited to go for a meal as I was on at least two occasions you knew that you’d made it. This was the place that all the directors of English Electric and GEC would go to lunch. It was an honour to go there.
“I am sure there are a lot of people who were apprentices at English Electric who may have been invited in on rare occasions who would be wincing at what has happened there. I support all the enforcement action you want to take.
“The sad part is we failed to keep it as a Listed Building and it should have been listed, as should the area around it. The business of it being a restaurant was reasonable, but for it to become a car showroom is unbelievable.”
Councillor Ann Edgeller said: “Can I say this is music to my ears, I’m absolutely delighted to see enforcement action is be taken on this site. I drive past that site every day and I think this isn’t right, this is not what we proposed.
“I remember sitting on the committee for this application. Originally I thought this involved the selling of classic cars and then all of a sudden it has developed into this car showroom place.
“I have to say it looks absolutely awful, so I’m highly delighted that something is going to be done on this.”
Foxearth Sports Prestige and 4×4 Ltd declined to comment when contacted.