A couple in the Canadian city of Vancouver have been ordered to remove a wooden staircase from their driveway because it contravened planning regulations, despite the fact its construction has prevented serious injuries.
Homeowners Judy Reeves and John Ryckman have both been seriously hurt in falls on the driveway in recent years and Ryckman’s father died days after an accident. That prompted to the couple to build a staircase in order to prevent further tragedy.
However, problems arose because the base of the driveway is located close to bank of a creek. District building regulations state construction is prohibited within 15 metres of a creek, but the couple’s staircase is just five metres away. The staircase was built with winter fast approaching and in the hurry to start the job, Mr Ryckman did not apply for a construction permit, leading to the council’s ruling in January that the staircase should be demolished within eight months.
Mr Ryckman, who suffered a broken leg in a fall on the driveway in 2012, says they would be struggling to meet the financial costs of restoring it to its original state due to the amount involved in building the staircase in the first place.
Brothers Creek, located next to the staircase, flows into the Capilano River and is a popular habitat for cutthroat trout, with one councillor describing it has the most important fish habitat in the local community. Neighbouring streams also contain a significant amount of salmon and councillors say there can be no exception to its environmental policy, despite the circumstances surrounding the staircase’s construction. And that means even if application for a permit had been sought, the council would not have authorised it to be built, though the Mayor Michael Smith suggested the couple may have received a more favourable outcome from the meeting had they done so.
Even though great care was taken not to disturb the natural surroundings, the pair now have to find a way to get rid of the stairs and try to make their driveway as safe as possible to prevent any more serious injuries. A three metre-wide section of brambles and branches was cleared to make way for the stairs, and any removal would result in a large, open gap.
The case highlights the issues you have to consider if you’re making significant adjustments to a building, particularly if it’s going to alter the overall design or contains external elements. The majority of projects face no obstacle but it’s often worth checking whether any planning permission is necessary or if there are any restrictions on building on the land.