Builder refused planning permission puts grotesque of council leader on his property

A stone grotesque on top of a building with platforming around it depicting a bald man with a beard and glasses
The builder put up a stone grotesque depicting his local councillor after his planning application to convert an old pizzeria into a house (Image credit: SWNS)

A builder was so angry when his plans to convert an old pizzeria into a house were refused, he installed a ‘grotesque’ resembling the council leader.

Michael Thomas, 71, aimed to turn the eatery into a three-storey, seven-bedroom home, but his planning permission was rejected by leaders at Trowbridge Town Council in Wiltshire.

Cllr Stewart Palmen objected to the project and put an enforcement notice in place to halt construction work after claiming Mr Thomas had a "vendetta against myself".

Why did the builder erect the grotesque?

The builder put up the grotesque, which shows the local politician wearing half-moon spectacles and sticking his tongue out, after his plans were refused by Trowbridge Town Council.

Cllr Palmen told the Independent: “It’s just been quite amusing. He just started constructing [the HMO] without any planning permission in 2020.

“I reported him to enforcement and in the end, he applied, and it was refused along with his appeals. He’s taken it quite personally and believes the council have dobbed him in."

Palmen added: “He seems to have a vendetta against myself – but I quite like the [grotesque] and would love for it to stay. I don’t have an issue with it but there is a serious side to it, there’s a court date on the fact he hasn’t returned the building to what it was.”

Why was planning permission refused?

Planning permission was refused by the council after claiming the conversion “detracts from the character and appearance of the area”.

The decision notice added: “It would have a prominent and immediate presence in the street which would erode the coherent appearance of the conservation area  and appear disproportionate to the adjacent modest two-storey dwelling.

“The largely blank north-western elevation would have an obvious presence that would deflect attention away from the listed weaver's houses when proceeding along Newtown from the northwest.

“Taking these factors together, the proposal would be an insensitive addition in this context. I consider that the CA and listed weaver's houses are intrinsic to the quality of the existing townscape.”

Builder protested the decision with banner too

After planning permission was refused in May, Mr Thomas launched a protest against the council by attaching a banner to the scaffolding attached to the building.

The banner read: “Wiltshire council invests time and energy in green field developments and long developers outside and around Trowbridge at a profit while actively hindering small building developers trying to fill a need for accommodation for those who do not qualify for the more expensive out of town accommodation.”

He told media outlets at the time: “If council officers are not following the rules, why should I? I am going to carry on building against their order and allow them to take me to court.”

Mr Thomas has continued his work and it remains to be seen what the council will do in response.

Homebuilding & Renovating has contacted Mr Thomas for comment.

An old closed down pizzeria with scaffolding around it

Despite the old pizzeria not being in use the council decided the reject planning to turn the derelict building into a three-storey, residential home (Image credit: Google Earth)
Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.