The street row over a new Wigan home that "turned racist"

A row over a new home in Wigan degenerated into “racist behaviour,” councillors have heard.
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Plans to build a five-bed home had already received full planning permission on Bowland Avenue, Ashton, last year, but amendments requested later received 17 objections – which meant they were referred to the planning committee for a decision.

The amendments included an extra elevation for an office and utility room, the garage to be converted into a bedroom and bathroom, additional ground floor windows, an additional parking space and internal room changes.

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But, Sunil Balan, who spoke in favour of the proposal at Wigan Town Hall, said his family faced “racist slurs” after applying to make the changes.

The bungalow being transformed into six-bed home on Bowland Avenue in AshtonThe bungalow being transformed into six-bed home on Bowland Avenue in Ashton
The bungalow being transformed into six-bed home on Bowland Avenue in Ashton
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Mr Balan told the committee: “These are minimal changes to the approved plan [which was given the green light last year].

“The overall height and changes [to the building will remain the same]. The new changes will take up the size of a car parking space.

“All we want is for all our family to live under one roof again. There have been a lot of lies and hatred spread about me and my family [online].

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“Racist slurs like ‘black and white don’t go together’. We were being targeted.

“I want my family to be treated equally. Only a small minority of residents are trying to prevent this.”

Mr Balan did not to refer to any indivual when making the racist allegations to the committee.

Wendy Porter, who spoke against the application in the council chamber explained how the construction – which has already started – has had a negative impact on her mother’s health, who lives on Bowland Avenue.

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“This proposal has already exacerbated an already appalling situation,” she told the committee. “I think this is a plan by stealth to get the original plan through with small changes to create the monster that came forward in the first place.”

Ms Porter was referring to the fact the original plan for six bedrooms on the site was rejected by the planning inspectorate in 2021. The inspector said: “The development would appear oversized, top heavy and cramped in its context, significantly eroding the first-floor gaps between neighbouring properties and interrupting the rhythm and sense of spaciousness along this part of the street.”

Councillors on the committee sympathised with the objectors in regard to the now six-bed and two bathroom property, but admitted they had no reason in planning law to refuse the application.

Coun Fred Walker exclaimed that “we all agree we have been worked over here”, after a number of committee members expressed frustration with the similarities the amendments had with the originally rejected proposal.

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“We don’t want to get into a ball game where we say they can’t do it and they do it anyway,” Coun Walker said. “Why are we saying they can build a six-bed after saying they couldn’t 18 months ago?”

Planning officer Gareth Jones responded by saying these alterations were "minor” elements compared to the original plan rejected.

Coun John Harding added: “I sympathise with the lady’s mother who lives next door. But the applicant mentioned racial slurs [being used] on social media in relation to this application. People using that as a reason for someone not to live there is abhorrent and disgusting.”

The planning committee unanimously approved the application.

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