Council 'regret' reversing planning advice AFTER Milton Keynes couple spent £520,000 on their ‘forever home’

A couple who bought the bungalow of their dreams after getting positive behind-the-scenes advice from planners were staggered when their later application for a first floor extension was recommended for REFUSAL.

Friday, 24th January 2020, 4:51 pm
Updated Friday, 24th January 2020, 4:53 pm

Inga and Guy Stewart sold their home and spent £520,000 on the new property in East Street, Olney, which they plan to turn into a “forever home” for three generations of the family, including their three children.

“We moved because of the advice we received,” Mrs Guy told a meeting on Thursday. “We can’t believe we are in this situation. We want this as our forever home.”

The couple and their children moved in last September and three weeks later lodged a planning application with Milton Keynes Council for the extension, confident that their scheme would pass muster.

Thursday's development control panel meeting

They had paid Milton Keynes Council for “pre-application advice” and had been told that it was “acceptable”.

But, after lodging an official planning application in October, they were advised to withdraw it as it would be refused.

Council planners said there were differences between the pre-application plan and the one submitted, but the couple contended that they were minor.

The council says pre-application advice should not be taken as meaning a final decision would go the same way.

And the fact that people have spent money on a scheme is not a planning reason for the council to break its policies.

Flabbergasted, Mr and Mrs Guy spoke to two of their councillors, Conservatives David Hosking, and Peter Geary, who asked for the final decision to be made in public.

Speaking at Thursday’s development control panel Cllr Hosking said: “This is probably another example of the systemic issues that those who lead our planning service need to look at.”

The council’s planning policies changed last year to include one that protects bungalows from being demolished.

The meeting heard that this application somehow fell between the cracks as policies changed.

Cllr Geary said: “We should ask the head of planning to ask what went on here. We must not make these mistakes again.”

Paul Keen, a team leader in the planning department, said: “The pre-application advice pre-dated Plan:MK.

“It is regrettable that emerging policies were not mentioned in that advice. Our processes have now changed.”

Although Cllr Keith McLean (Cons), the third Olney councillor present, said the applicant’s agent should have know about Plan:MK, “that’s what you pay them for”, he supported granting permission.

A relieved Mr and Mrs Guy left the council chamber with broad smiles, agreeing that “it’s all been worth it, we can get on now.”