TOWN planners will tell former Conservative councillor Douglas Stewart to apply for planning permission for an unauthorised shed in his Peatmoor back garden.

The Advertiser understands the council's planning committee decided on Tuesday to take enforcement action against Mr Douglas.

The decision goes against the advice of the council's officers contained in secret documents.

As we reported in Tuesday's paper, the council was to meet in secret to decide what to do about a shed put up by Mr Stewart without planning permission in May last year.

The work started at the same time as then-councillor Stewart sat on the town's planning committee.

The committee's secret documents show the council took more than a year to investigate a complaint from Coun Stewart's Newmeadow Copse neighbour that the workshop infringed his privacy and was being built illegally.

Coun Stewart stepped down from the council ahead of the May 4 election this year.

Swindon planning officers say in the report obtained by the Advertiser that the council should take no enforcement action over the building.

The report says the council would be likely to approve the building work if it had been submitted through the correct channels and any move towards enforcement would be overturned at appeal.

Former councillor Mr Stewart said last week that the planning officers had it wrong.

He said the wooden shed came within rights to develop 70 cubic metres without planning permission.

The Advertiser report drew criticism from council leader Roderick Bluh, who said in a letter printed by the paper that all enforcement cases were heard in private.

"It is wrong for the Advertiser to imply that Swindon Borough Council's Planning Committee is being secretive by hearing the enforcement case over former Councillor Douglas Stewart's wooden garden building in private," Coun Bluh said.

"The council always hears enforcement cases without the press or public being present, regardless of who is involved, because long-standing legal advice says that this is the best course of action.

"It is also incorrect to suggest that it is "disquieting" for the matter to have taken a year to be considered.

"The timescale is typical for a case like this, as the council always tries to reach a negotiated result before resorting to an enforcement hearing.

"No special treatment has been given to this issue, and it has been dealt with entirely properly."

A Swindon Council spokesman said the Mr Stewart would be served with a notice to remove the shed.

He has 56 days to appeal the decision.

If in the meantime Mr Stewart submits a planning application for the shed, the council would probably suspend its enforcement action until that was decided.