Crucial public inquiry coming over Milton Keynes house built too large

A bid by two councillors to withdraw and rethink enforcement action over a house that was built too large was thrown out at a special meeting on Monday.

Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 10:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 10:54 pm

Milton Keynes Council has got itself into an almighty tangle with enforcement notices to correct alleged breaches of planning control at the bungalow that was turned into a house in Willen.It has even involved the government’s planning inspectorate, in an unprecedented letter, telling the council that errors in one of the notices make it null and void.

The householder in Portland Drive has appealed to the government over enforcement notices, and a refusal of planning permission. A public inquiry is due to start on March 11.

At a special meeting of Milton Keynes Council’s development control committee on Monday, councillors decided not to exclude the press and public.

Monday's development control committee

The council chamber included a dozen Willen residents and a journalist who had spoken out to keep the issues in the public domain.

But councillors kept their fingers finely balanced over the eject button just in case they strayed too far into discussing legal tactics. The council has a barrister preparing a defence of its actions.

Two councillors, Andrew Geary (Cons, Olney) and Terry Baines (Cons, Campbell Park & Old Woughton), threw a possible spanner in the council’s works by proposing ripping up and starting again. It’s a move supported by residents who want the house demolished.

Councillors Geary and Baines argued that they want the council to take stock of the situation and consider taking other enforcement action.

But council director of growth, economy and culture, Tracy Darke, said officers wanted the “flexibility to respond to” the barrister as they develop their case in time for the public inquiry.

“We need to deal with everything as it comes forward. The landscape is changing on this every day,” she said.

She said that the council was acting “in the best interests of the council and the residents of Willen.”

Councillors are keen to maintain control over the issue, fearing that decisions they have taken may not be carried through.

Cllr Geary said it was a unique situation in his 17 years on the council, a view echoed by both Cllr Keith McLean (Cons, Olney) and Tracy Darke.

When it came to the vote, however, the Geary-Baines counter-proposal was lost by eight votes to two.

Instead, the committee decided by nine votes to two to delegate powers to officers, in consultation with the chairman and two vice-chairmen to decide what to do in the light of emerging information.

Cllr Pauline Wallis (Lab, Central MK) said: “We are splitting hairs, let’s get it done. This is good enough.

“We can’t just allow people to build what they like. I think you’ve covered all the bases.”

Residents leaving the chamber were far from happy. They wanted the council to order the demolition of the house they say dominates the area.One resident predicted that: “They’ve made this situation worse and I believe it will come back to haunt them.”