Judge's swipe at planners as he discharges case against Coleraine B&B owner in windows row
The elderly owner of a Coleraine guesthouse whose wife died during a legal battle over PVC windows in a listed building says he doesn't know if planners will back off after a judge said he had been through enough.
Winston Wallace (80), who runs Breezemount Manor on Castlerock Road, has been locked in a dispute with planning chiefs for years and has been brought to court several times.
In the latest hearing at Coleraine Magistrates Court District Judge Des Perry ordered an absolute discharge as Mr Wallace had "suffered enough", and said it would be a "disgrace" if planners continued to take action against the pensioner.
He also ordered that he pay just £400 of the £1,000 costs.
A defence lawyer said Mr Wallace's wife Irene had died during the dispute, that his client was "emotionally and financially exhausted", and had put Breezemount up for sale because he faced financial destitution.
Mr Wallace said yesterday he would "just have to wait and see" what the planners did now.
"It is a long story and it has been torturous," he added. "My wife died in the middle of it due to all the anxiety. We have had no pleasure in the last lot of years.
"After running an insurance brokers for 42 years, my wife and I retired. We were very interested in historic buildings and we bought this place. She was my right hand, and through going to these courts, and one thing or the other, she took ill and died in July 2012 aged 76.
"I was absolutely elated at the court. The judge was very fair and understood the situation.
"It all goes back to 1999. It was a derelict building and we spent £200,000 of our own money restoring it. In the course of the renovation the fire authority refused to accept replacement wooden windows. They were 150 years old and were completely rotten. We had to pull them all out, and the fire authority recommended PVC windows from a fire point of view.
"We opened in Easter that year, and in 2007 we got this rocket from the planning office telling us to take out the PVC windows and replace them with wooden single-glazed windows.
"That was when the whole thing blew up and battles started. I have five box files of correspondence fighting with them and I have been at court five times."
Mr Wallace said it would cost him £100,000 to replace the windows and that he did not have the money to pay for the work. He also told how he was "totally exhausted" by the whole battle and that he had now put the B&B up for sale.
A spokeswoman for Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council said: "Mr Wallace appeared before the court on November 6, 2015 where he pleaded guilty to not complying with the terms of a listed building enforcement notice.
"This required the replacement of unauthorised uPVC windows in Breezemount Manor, a grade B1 listed building, with timber sliding sash windows, by October 2007. The commitment made at this court appearance was that two windows would be replaced by April 2016. To date, no windows have been replaced.
"The council takes breaches of planning control seriously and is committed to resolve this breach of planning control. The council notes the comments of the magistrate at Mr Wallace's most recent appearance at court on April 11, 2016."