The owners of a Rothesay hotel have been told by planning officers that they could be sent to prison if they continue to defy planning rules on the replacement of windows in their property.
Harry and Hazel Greene, owners of the Bute House Hotel, decided to press ahead with the installation of double-glazed uPVC windows with turn-and-tilt frames in the property - despite having two planning applications refused by Argyll and Bute Council, and an appeal against refusal dismissed by the Scottish Government.
Work began on replacing the windows on the morning of Wednesday, March 19 - and within an hour the Greenes had received a visit from two of the authority’s planning officers.
Work was stopped later in the day after the company replacing the windows received a warning from the council that it intended to involve the police - and then, at 6.26pm on Wednesday, the Greenes received by email a letter from the authority’s planning department warning them of the consequences if the work were allowed to continue continued.
The letter stated that:
* if the Greenes or their contractors proceed with the unauthorised operations, the council expects the matter to be reported to the procurator fiscal recommending prosecution, and that if prosecuted and found guilty of an offence the Greenes would receive a criminal record and may be imprisoned or fined;
* the council will pursue enforcement action and direct the Greenes to remove and replace every unauthorised window with a timber frame, opening mechanism and glazing faithful to the timber windows removed without permission;
* the contractors are also implicated in a potential offence;
* failure to comply could have serious financial and legal consequences for the Greenes permitting the unauthorised work to be executed;
* a Temporary Stop Notice is under preparation and will be served upon the Greenes and their contractor to prohibit unauthorised work;
* the Greenes should seek legal advice if they are in any doubt about the meaning of the letter or the requirements of the Temporary Stop Notice.
The Greenes have been attempting since 2012 to gain planning permission for windows which would be cheaper to install and maintain, and which would provide better insulation, better soundproofing and be easier to clean than the single-glazed, timber-framed, sliding sash and case windows currently in place in the building.
But both the council and the Scottish Government have insisted that uPVC windows are not acceptable on a listed building in the outstanding conservation area which covers Rothesay town centre.
A petition on the subject, organised by The Buteman and urging the council to reconsider its refusal and to work towards a solution which would benefit the Bute economy as a whole, attracted more than 1,200 signatures.