CIVIC chiefs have settled a long-running planning battle by the slimmest of margins just weeks after being accused of acting ‘malignly’ and causing a mental breakdown.

The plans by Colden Common resident Jane Ratcliffe were approved by Winchester City Council’s planning committee, allowing an outbuilding to be kept for use as an office and games room.

It follows a string of refusals and appeals at Brown Eaves, 170 Main Road, which planning agents Wessex Planning said resulted in Ms Ratcliffe having a mental breakdown.

Committee members said the history behind the outbuilding “made it difficult” to cast a vote.

They had “no reason to go against” the latest application on planning grounds, but the outbuilding was originally built without planning permission being granted.

Colden Common parish councillor Pam Glasspool said: “This application may appear innocuous, but this is for a building with a history of unlawfulness. It is difficult not to see that this is a cynical attempt to avoid the planning process.”

Ward councillor Sue Cook then took to the stand and said: “The poor neighbour has been put through disarray ever since this started.

“Anything they wanted to do with their property, they did it by the book, following every rule. Then along came this person – it’s just not fair.”

Councillors also raised concerns that the ancillary building in the back garden would become permanent accommodation due to its design.

Cllr Patrick Cunningham raised the question: “Does the council have the legal right to attend and inspect the property, considering you cannot see it from the public street, to make sure all conditions are being met?”

The committee were told how all planning officers do have the right to enter a residents property, but must give 24 hours notice.

The council’s service lead for built environment, Julie Pinnock, said that the building would be put on a form of ‘watchlist’.

Cllr David McLean replied: “Why support it if it has to go there? We don’t need to put it there if we don’t permit the application!”

Members of the committee were divided four-four, with chairman Cllr Therese Evans casting the deciding vote to approve.