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Hotel owner 'cannot live this lie any more'
A HOTEL boss has finally decided to come clean and stop “living a lie” after admitting he has been ignoring planning rules for two decades.
Gwyn Harries-Jones, who owns the Galaxie Hotel in Banbury Road, Oxford, began using a prohibited part of his property as seven hotel rooms in 1992.
He had been told by Oxford City Council in that same year that he wasn’t allowed to. “The city council was unaware of the breach of its planning conditions despite the fact the four-star guesthouse was listed on the Visit Oxfordshire website, which it funds.
Now Mr Harries-Jones is applying for a certificate of existing lawful use because the council can no longer enforce the restriction after so long.
Speaking to the Oxford Mail he said: “With the natural progression of time our needs were changing. “If we weren’t able to use those rooms it would have a big effect on our business.
“I am so stressed out about it. We have been living a lie and I cannot stand it any more.”
Mr Harries-Jones has been involved in running the hotel since 1985 when he took it over from his mother.
Including the seven hotel rooms which he has been using without permission, the Galaxie has a total of 32 bedrooms advertised on its website for between £82 and £130.
In a statement to the city council Mr Harries-Jones said: “Because of the demands for hotel bedrooms and ancillary space, in particular for porters’ accommodation and offices, we commenced using the rooms at 178 Banbury Road as part of the hotel.”
A certificate of existing lawful use prevents enforcement action from being taken over planning breaches if a set time limit has passed and no action has already been taken.
Once the time limit – in this case 10 years – passes the city council can no longer take action against it.
While it is likely the certificate would have to be granted, city council spokeswoman Louisa Dean said if it wasn’t, an enforcement notice to stop using the rooms could then be issued.
Ms Dean said: “The city council has to have evidence that harm has been caused by the alleged breach of planning.”
Ms Dean said the council had received no complaints about the hotel in the past 10 years and disagreed that the council had failed in any way.