NEIGHBOURS facing enforcement action over unauthorised double-glazed windows in their listed houses in Dartmouth should apply for planning permission – and hope that councillors give in.

This faint glimmer of hope emerged after David Owen and three other families living in Victoria Road received letters from South Hams Council telling them to remove their uPVC windows.

South Hams Council planning chief, Alan Robinson, told the Chronicle that the eventual decision on the enforcement was down to members – the letters were the first step in negotiations.

He explained: 'It is the council's duty to protect the historical character of important buildings. If we take action we will try to give a reasonable time for the job to be carried out.

'We are not trying to be unreasonable,' he stressed, 'but just undertaking our duties.'

Mr Robinson added: 'Ultimately it is up to members to decide whether to go ahead with enforcement or not.'

Mr Owen decided to fight the enforcement and was joined by another family facing the same fate, Walter Keenor and his daughter and son-in-law, Katherine and Alan Greeno, who live two doors along the terrace.

He has written to local South Hams Council members in the hope they will support them.

Dartmouth Town Council's planning committee has already agreed to back the fight against enforcement and has suggested de-listing the properties as a possible answer to the window problem.

Mr Owen claims he had no knowledge of the listing of his home, which was confirmed in 1994. He says that he spent four years nursing his terminally-ill wife and her illness could have caused him to forget receiving any notification.

He says he cannot understand why his windows, specially designed to look exactly like the ones he removed, had to go.

He added: 'The wooden ones were very rotten.

'And I just cannot see why one householder has been told to remove the windows and yet the householder next door is going to be allowed to keep ones made of uPVC. It does not make sense.'

Mr Owen purchased the windows after his wife died because 'there was such a draught coming through the old windows.' 'The new windows are much more environmentally friendly as I use a lot less heating now and they do not need painting every year,' he said.

Mrs Greeno confirmed that her family would also fight the enforcement notice against the windows her father installed in 1995.

'We will not take them out' she vowed.