Preston couple fined by court for changing windows

The windows at the Fulwood home
The windows at the Fulwood home
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A couple who faced a three-year battle over installing uPVC windows at their plush £300,000 semi-detached home have been punished for a second time by magistrates.

Mohammed Rawat, 36, and wife Aisha, 31, had rotting timber frames replaced at their home on leafy Highgate Avenue on Fulwood in August 2012 – three-and-a-half months after rules on Fulwood Conservation Area were implemented by Preston City Council.

Their next-door neighbours, and several other people living on the avenue, replaced their windows with uPVC frames before the regulations came in, so no action was taken.

But the couple, who say they were not made aware of the rules, now face an £11,000 bill to replace their windows with timber frames, which the council says are in keeping with the local area.

Today Mr Rawat, who has lived at the property since 2010, said: “We feel victimised – half the houses on the avenue have uPVC. We replaced the timber frames because they were rotting.

“This has been overshadowing us for three years. Aisha suffers from bipolar depression and the stress of the case has made it worse.

“We have two young children and couldn’t afford a solicitor – we don’t know where we are going to get £11,000 from.”

In a hearing at Preston Magistrates’ Court, Mr Rawat, a chaplain, was fined £190, while Mrs Rawat was fined £70 after both admitting breaching an enforcement notice calling for the uPVC windows and sills to be removed from the front elevation of the house.

Both were ordered to pay a £20 surcharge and Mr Rawat must pay £330 costs.

David Haley, prosecuting, said the couple still hadn’t replaced the windows, despite a similar court case in August 2013.

On that occasion both were 
sentenced to a conditional discharge of 12 months each with £100 costs.

The couple, representing themselves, told the bench they were “not deliberately flouting the rules” and did try to seek help afterwards.

The chairman of the bench warned them that for each day they did not replace the windows they were committing another offence.

Fulwood Conservation area covers 100 hectares and is recognised as Preston’s first suburb, developed from the Victorian period to the 1920s.

It is an early example of a “Freehold Land Society” estate, and contains a good example of Edwardian architecture in Highgate Avenue.

A council spokesman said: “Preston City Council has a duty to ensure compliance with legislation, including the ruling about uPVC windows in a conservation area, which came into effect in April 2011.

“The prosecution is the first since the regulations changed in the Fulwood conservation area, which specifically relates to the unauthorised installation of uPVC windows.

“If any other homeowner in this situation submits an application to change their windows back to timber frame, this would be supported by the council’s planning department.”