Disabled Plymouth woman faces £2,200 bill before she can start to build extension
A DISABLED woman bidding to extend her home to allow her family to care for her as her condition worsens fears her plan could be blocked because of a row over a sewer.
Lucy Crowley, 41, has lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) for the last ten years and her degenerating health means she needs constant care.
Mrs Crowley says she requires an extension to her home in Churchway, Weston Mill, including a downstairs toilet and space for her parents-in-law, who have recently moved in with her.
Last month Plymouth City Council granted planning permission for the two-storey add-on, but South West Water (SWW) has blocked the move, saying it would get in the way of a public sewer.
Mrs Crowley must pay £2,220 as an "initial fee" for surveys to be carried out before any work can be done to move the sewer - and has been warned she may face legal action if she goes ahead without consulting SWW.
Mrs Crowley said: "I have got my in-laws living with me because I can't cope on my own, we need the space so they can have an area upstairs.
"Why do they need £2,200 just to have a look? My problem is the amount that they are asking for even before doing the work, I feel it's a lot of money.
"If this is going to cost another £10,000 we won't be able to do it. But I have got no option but to pay that money."
Mrs Crowley's husband, Scott, is a former Navy serviceman now working as a locksmith and she says he needs to keep working in order to fund her care.
"I have got limited mobility," she said. "I can't have a chair lift and I need a downstairs toilet. With MS if you need the loo you need to go, if you don't you have lots of accidents. My husband has to go out to work because we can't afford for him not to work, he has to care for me. His parents have agreed they will care for me if they can live upstairs, but there's not enough room."
She added: "The reason I need a two-storey extension is so the government is not paying for care for me and we are not taking anything off the state.
"We have tried our best to fund this ourselves but we just keep finding these barriers in the way."
Architect Robert Boardman, who drew up the designs for the proposed extension, said: "She is fed up with the fact that she is facing more than £2,000 just to get an appointment with them.
"It seems really below the belt when you are just trying to build a little extension."
A SWW spokeswoman said: "Anyone looking to build near or over a public sewer must make an application to us.
"We need to be able to access our sewers quickly in the event that something goes wrong.
"If a householder builds an extension over a sewer which subsequently collapses and we cannot reach it to make urgent repairs then they could suffer considerable distress and disruption.
"For that reason we cannot approve Mrs Crowley's request to build a two-storey extension over our sewer due to the accessibility problems it would create. "In these circumstances the customer will need to apply for a sewer diversion for which we take a deposit to cover the costs of the scheme."
The spokeswoman added: "We are responsible for the maintenance and repair of our network so if we are unable to access it then we might be forced to take legal action to protect our assets."
She could not confirm the potential total cost of the project, saying it would be "dependent on the investigations."