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Zeta loses out to 'Joe Bloggs' ruling

Mar 3 2004

Robin Turner, The Western Mail

 

SHE may have defeated celebrity magazine Hello! in court, but yesterday Catherine Zeta-Jones lost out to Joe Bloggs.

She and Michael Douglas had objected to plans by Steve Gwynn to run his telecommunications company from his home, which is next door to the Hollywood couple's new 1m house in Swansea.

But Swansea City and County Council's planning committee decided to treat the case as "three houses for Joe Bloggs and his neighbours", and overruled the celebrities' concerns.

Gower councillor Howard Morgan also called for his fellow members to "forget the personalities involved".

The committee did just that and allowed Mr Gwynn to continue his business even though the actors' lawyers claimed it would endanger their privacy.

But Labour councillor Des Thomas had little sympathy for the movie stars declaring, "If they wanted isolation and security they should have bought in a more isolated spot."

The couple's lawyers claimed the Swansea Bay-side house at Plunch Lane, Limeslade had been built as a quiet haven. Swansea planning officers agreed and had recommended that Mr Gwynn should shut down the business he has run at his home next to the Douglas site in Plunch Lane for the past 18 months and establish it elsewhere.

But the committee had other ideas, granting Mr Gwynn temporary permission to continue his business for at least another two years.

The decision, made by a margin of 12-2, has to be ratified by the full council later this month but is almost certain to be rubber stamped.

What counted against the Douglas clan was that far from being a quiet haven, the house has attracted sightseers from all over the world.

According to neighbours in Mumbles, it is becoming almost as famous in the area as the family themselves.

Mr Morgan told the committee yesterday that when he and his council colleagues went to the Plunch Lane house for a site visit, "people from Denmark" were there looking at it.

Mr Gwynn says that the house regularly attracts bus loads of sightseers and photographers in helicopters regularly "buzz" the site, checking progress on the Hollywood couple's new home.

Mr Gwynn, who helped to develop the three-home gated site where he now lives, runs his business from an outbuilding there and employs three staff.

He said after yesterday's victory, "I'm just glad that common sense has prevailed and that three people's jobs are safe.

"This means we can continue to work.

"Common sense has obviously prevailed."

Asked if he had any idea why planners had urged the committee to turn down his application despite the overwhelming decision in his favour he said, "I just don't know".

Planning officer Kim Barnes told the committee that the telecommunications business run by Mr Gwynn was in a primarily residential area and would be more appropriate in a business quarter.

But the committee was told yesterday there were many businesses run nearby and that other houses on the site had covenants restricting business use so no precedent could be set.

And Mr Gwynn said virtually all his business was done over the telephone or by e-mail and that he had around three deliveries a week.

Mr Morgan said, "My house probably gets more visits from the milkman, the baker and the postman in a day than he gets in a week."

Experienced Mumbles councillor Joan Peters said after the meeting, "The full council will have the final say but it is almost certain they will follow the committee's line.

"It basically means that Mr Gwynn will be able to run his business for at least the next two years despite the objections and that monitoring will take place."

When the house is completed within the next few weeks, Catherine Zeta-Jones's parents Dai and Pat Jones are expected to move in.

Their daughter and her husband are expected to use the house for occasional visits to Wales.

A solicitor acting for the family made objections to the continuance of Mr Gwynn's business on the site.

In a letter to the authority, James Tonner said that it would compromise his clients' privacy and security.

He said, "The developer emphasised from the outset the site would be an extremely prestigious and desirable development consisting of three executive properties of substantial cost.

"Our clients would be extremely concerned and alarmed that the privacy and security of the development would be jeopardised by virtue of visits to the site by members of staff."

No members of Catherine Zeta Jones's family were present at yesterday's meeting.

Her spokeswoman, Ce Ce Yorke, did not make a response yesterday.

 
 

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