Disabled man's planning application for wheelchair ramp is refused due to being in conservation area

A builder on scaffolding carrying out work on a two-storey house
The house in Tillicoultry, Alloa has been rejected planning permission to renovate the house to allow the disabled homeowner the ability to move freely through the house (Image credit: Google Street View)

A disabled man was refused planning permission for adjustments to his home to make it easier for him to move around.

Adam Bellshaw, 30, was diagnosed with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy and Rippling Muscle Disease and sought permission to make his home more suited to his medical needs. This included adding an external ramp for a wheelchair as well as widening his stairwell to accommodate a stairlift and adding a bannister. He also hoped to raise the low ceiling upstairs to add an upstairs bathroom.

However, Clackmannanshire Council denied giving him planning permission for the property in Tillicoultry, Alloa, on the grounds that his house falls within a conservation area and they claimed the plans would not be in keeping with the design of the house or the street.

Plans included a wheelchair ramp and extending to add an upstairs bathroom

Mr Bellshaw submitted the planning application in 2022 as he said he was finding his home difficult for him to move around freely. The height of the upstairs rooms was too low for him as the previous owner had converted the loft, resulting in a ceiling height of only 5ft 7ins. Mr Bellshaw, who is 6ft 4ins tall, had hoped to extend his upstairs space to add a bathroom as well as increasing the ceiling height.

His plans also proposed replacing his existing narrow staircase with one large enough to accommodate a stair lift. This would enable him to move safely between floors if his condition deteriorated. Bannisters for the stairs were also part of the plans. An external ramp meanwhile was proposed so he could access the home in a wheelchair.

Plans rejected as 'not in keeping' with home's character

Clackmannanshire Council's planning department received the submitted plans, but denied two applications for the changes citing its location within a conservation area being the main factor.

The planning permission was refused for the property, and despite a subsequent appeal, the Council's Local Review Body dismissed the application.

The planning documents state, "The proposal is contrary to Policy SC 8 of the Clackmannanshire Local Development Plan," as it "is not in keeping with the character of the house and would adversely affect that character."

The street shows a variety of houses in different style such as an all white house

Planning was rejected for the house as it was deemed to not be in keeping with the character of the conservation area (Image credit: Google Earth)

Are visuals 'more important than quality of life'?

Mr Bellshaw criticised the council's refusal of his application claiming they had shown no sympathy for his situation.

Adam told the Alloa Advertiser: "There has been no consideration taken into the fact that I've got a disability. Where's the humanity in all of this? If you're telling me that the visual amenity of a property is more important than the quality of life of someone who lives in it, then you've got a pretty skewed thought process. The stairwell was very steep and narrow, very unsafe and was causing issues for me to ascend and descend."

Clackmannanshire Council MP, Keith Brown, has shown his support for Adam and has sent a letter to Nikki Bridle, the Chief Executive of Clacks Council, urging a re-evaluation of his case.

Brown stated: "I have helped Adam make representation about the adaptations he was seeking to make to his home. I remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached with the planners as to how his needs can be best met whilst at the same time respecting the historic nature of what is a conservation property."

Mr Bellshaw has since entered a third application for the changes, which appears to have been approved, although Adam states he started work before approval was given due to the property "deteriorating".

Adam's applications were refused before equalities policies were put in place

In cases such as this the fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) can be used to alter council's planning decisions as this emphasises the importance of planning decisions that uphold human rights, eliminate discrimination, and promote equality.

This NPF4 was adopted by the Scottish Government in November last year, which Tom Arthur, Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth claimed: "This strategy sets out how we will work together in the coming years to improve people’s lives by making sustainable, liveable and productive places." 

However, at Clackmannanshire Council, the NPF4 planning condition was implemented after Adam's initial two planning applications had already been refused, which means the council was not obligated to consider the NPF4 principles when making their decision.

A council spokesperson refused to comment on the application when approached stating: "Please note that no further comment will be provided on this, or any other planning application, beyond the details contained in the Council's publicly available planning application records."

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.