BY JAMES TWOMEY
A town hall has been accused of demolishing a resident’s garage extension which was being used as a music studio to help young local artists avoid crime.
According to Jeff Sutherland, the owner of the garage and property in Ambleside Avenue, Streatham, when the demolition took place £4,000 worth of equipment was also stolen.
But Lambeth has carried out a thorough investigation into the theft claims and says it is satisfied that all the equipment was secured in another building on Mr Sutherland’s property before its staff left the site.
Mr Sutherland agreed the council had been threatening to knock down the garage extension – and on May 27 he received a call from a friend of his son telling him it had been demolished and that lots of items had been taken in the process.
He did not appeal after being issued with a formal enforcement notice by the council on April 30 last year. That notice, ordering him to demolish, came into effect on June 11, warning him he had three months to do so. The council had the power to bulldoze the extension from September 11 last year but did not do so until May 27.
Mr Sutherland, who has reported the missing equipment to police, said: “I received a call from one of the boys who was absolutely distraught. He told me that the council have demolished not only the extension but part of the original garage that I rebuilt.
“Also missing are two gas powered generators, two gas cylinders and two security doors.
“I emailed the enforcement officer several times, asking him to prove that I have breached planning regulations.
“I am really pissed off but more importantly there were young lads practising their trade.
“Some of the stuff they made was really good and got on air and onto things like Spotify.
“One of the lads got into uni through the music he was making in that garage.”
Mr Sutherland said he had been in a dispute with Lambeth council for two years over the 2sqm extension of his garage, which he built with the help of his son and his son’s friends who used the space to make music – one of them had recently left prison.
According to Mr Sutherland, two Lambeth planning officers had told him he did not require planning permission for his extension. But once Mr Sutherland completed the work he was then told that it did need permission.
Mr Sutherland received an enforcement notice to demolish the extension but his son and friends began squatting in the garage to prevent the council from demolishing it.
Mr Sutherland’s son, Joe Sutherland, said: “Having the studio destroyed in the manner it was has left me devastated and heartbroken.
“Those who know me would tell you how passionate I am about my career and music. Since me and some friends created this space I’ve come to share an equalled passion for the studio.
“Not just does the space give me and friends a place to express ourselves creatively and build on our music careers, but it also provides the same opportunities for talented youngsters to do the same.
“We haven’t received one complaint from the local residents, nor has there been any police visits to the studio, so all I’d like is for the studio to be restored back to its original state and for us to resume work, build on our careers and help others do the same.”
Simi Ambass, 19, was one of the musicians who used the studio and a former East London Arts and Music graduate.
Simi said: “Joe has known me since I was 11. He mentored me and taught me how to compose and produce music from a young age.
“Since Joe built the studio he’s allowed me to use the space when I like to further my production skills as well as use as a soundproof rehearsal space to practice on my Cello or Saxophone .
“This space being knocked down is devastating and I don’t see how this could happen to someone like Joe or his friends that have put their all into creating this amazing space.”
A Lambeth council spokesman said: “Lambeth council is keen to support young people looking to express themselves in the creative industries.
We have a number of support programmes and opportunities to make sure our young people have access to good, well paid jobs that allow them to realise their aspirations in life. These are open to all our residents.
“However we also have an obligation ensure Lambeth has liveable neighbourhoods and that is achieved in a number of different ways, including through the planning system, which applies in this case.
“Planning permission is needed to extend and use an outbuilding in this way – and no application was made. “The land owner was advised to cease the use and remove the unauthorised extension.
“It conflicts with local and national planning policy, including being substandard accommodation with poor access, and adversely affecting the conservation area where the rules are even tougher.
“A notice was issued on April 30, 2018 requiring the removal of the unauthorised works – as those responsible had taken no steps to resolve matters.
No appeal was made, and action should have been taken by September latest last year.
“Despite being given every chance to address the situation over the last 18 months, the property owner failed to resolve matters, so a contractor was used to remove the unauthorised works.”