Costs awarded against council as it loses first round of the battle of the big house

    The council has lost the first round of what could be a very expensive planning battle over a house that was built too large.

    Costs have been awarded against Milton Keynes Council by the Government, which has ruled that its decision to withdraw enforcement action was “unreasonable” to the homeowner.

    But residents who have objected to the house believe the loss to the council – around £1,000 so far – could be dwarfed.

    They say the council faces cost applications of well over £40,000 from themselves and the homeowner. They’ve urged the council to re-think its position.

    The Planning Inspectorate’s Steve Parsons said the council’s decision to drop an enforcement notice known as EN3 was an admission that the notice should not have been issued in the first place.

    “The council therefore acted unreasonably,” the inspectorate’s decision letter said. It has been left to the two sides to agree a figure.

    Manoj Srivastava had appealed to the Planning Inspectorate over the council’s action against his home in Portland Drive, Willen. He would have had to pay costs to defend himself which have now gone to waste.

    Mr Srivastava was given permission to replace a bungalow, but the council say the house was built too big.

    But MK Council blundered in drafting of the enforcement notice, and was told so in no uncertain terms.

    On January 16 the inspectorate told the council that the error was “incapable of correction”.

    The council the council then decided to withdraw the enforcement notice EN3 and issue another one, EN4, instead of correcting and resubmitting it.

    An appeal against EN4 has also been lodged against this new enforcement notice. It is currently in the Government’s machinery, along with an appeal against another enforcement notice known as EN1.

    The Willen Residents Group has spent more than £20,000 on legal advice to fight its case over EN1 and they believe the home owner will have similar costs. And they believe they have spotted more errors in the council’s case.

    Andrew Herman, of the residents’ group, said: “The council are in yet another mess over their handling of Portland Drive.” 

    He added: “We are calling on the council to now accept that they have made a lot of mistakes in their handling of Portland Drive and to put the enforcement issues back on the agenda again with both honest and professional advice.

    “We do not think the council can risk further reputation damage and interventions by the secretary of state which we think will be inevitable if they carry on their current course.”

    A spokesman for the council said as the enforcement action was progressing it would be inappropriate to comment.

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