A PENSIONER is threatening to take a planning protest right to the top by presenting a petition to Prince Andrew when he visits Accrington next week.
Duncan Wilkinson, 73, of Abbey Street, Accrington, wants to embarrass bosses at the North Lancs Training Group by handing the Duke of York a letter signed by residents and businesses.
He is furious at the height of a new furniture training centre being built behind the group's Manchester Road headquarters, which he says blocks out the light and spoils the view from his kitchen window.
It emerged this week that work on the centre of vocational excellence started without planning permission.
The Prince is due to touch down in Hyndburn to officially open the firm's Bradshawgate House headquarters next Friday - and there to see him will be Mr Wilkinson and other residents who share his views.
He said: "The roof of the new building is too high and spoils my view. A neighbour has to turn his lights on during the day because of the shadow it casts."
"This work has been going on for two months without permission. The council is supposed to be for the people. If this had been anyone else, they would have had to knock the roof down. It's a case of the tail wagging the dog."
"I would like to ask those councillors who passed the application whether they would have that building 18 feet from the back of their houses. If the answer is yes they would be liars."
"Prince Andrew may ignore me, but at least I will have given it a go. I might be stopped from getting to him by the police and security."
Councillors on Hyndburn's Planning Committee gave the application retrospective approval - but not without expressing strong criticism.
Committee chairman Councillor Doug Hayes expressed his sympathy for the residents.
He said: "These people should know better. They shouldn't take planning permission for granted."
"It's just not on. The thing is up now and we can't do a damn thing about it. At the end of the day, we are talking about people's quality of life and that should be sorted out before work starts."
Managing Director of the North Lancs Training Group, Jim Harkness, said the work had to be carried out as quickly as possible as the building earmarked for the centre had an asbestos roof and a Government deadline was looming.
He said: "We didn't start work until January. We have spent thousands on removing the old asbestos roof. We have actually lowered the height of the roof and the wall by one third."
"We have gone along with all the requirements and we are going to get all the highest quality equipment to make sure there's no fouling of the air or noise nuisance."
"We have to have the centre finished by the end of March, as it is the end of the financial year, so we had to get things moving along. I would have hoped the people of Accrington would be pleased they are getting another centre of excellence to add to the one at the college. To have two in one town is something I thought people would be clapping about."
He added that it was doubtful the protesters would be allowed to get close to Prince Andrew.
Hyndburn Council's Chief Planning Officer, Brendan Lyons, said: "Starting work without planning permission is not an offence under planning law. Some of us would wish it was, but people make their own judgements."