Homeowner shocked to find out that councillors are considering demolishing his too-large Milton Keynes house

Councillors who want to force a homeowner to knock down his newly-built family home over alleged breaches of planning agreements have paused to seek a barrister’s advice.

Monday, 14th October 2019, 12:10 pm
A drone photo of the controversial house in Willen

Thursday’s meeting of Milton Keynes Council’s Development Control Committee heard from neighbours of the home in Portland Drive, Willen, who said there were so many breaches of planning agreements that demolition was the only option.

Referring to an earlier committee decision to refuse retrospective planning permission for Dr Manoj Srivastava’s house, neighbour Andrew Herman said: “You cannot allow something more harmful that that which has been refused permission.”

Dr Srivastava had permission to replace a bungalow on the site with a bigger family house, and had unsuccessfully sought retrospective permission after certain breaches of that permission were discovered by the council.

Mr Herman’s own barrister, Stephen Whale, of Landmark Chambers, in London, said: “It needs compliance with plans that have been approved. It is not possible to reduce the height of the roof without demolition.

“It is a clear and straightforward case, with numerous precedents and demolition is the preferred course of action here.”

Campbell Park parish councillor Brian Greenwood said: “Mistakes have been made all the way through and now it needs to be rectified, and it has to be rectified correctly.”

But the councillors were advised by their officers that they stuck by their recommendation. The view presented to the committee was that the “demolition of the current dwelling would represent a disproportionate action.”

The council has launched enforcement action which is the subject of an appeal by the owner. Dr Srivastava was not present during Thursday’s debate.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service spoke to Dr Srivastava at his home on Friday. He said: “I did not know anything about this meeting. Why did the council hold a meeting without informing me?

“The whole thing has been a nightmare and is tearing my family apart, to the extent that we regret ever buying it.

“I have always made it clear that we are willing to talk to the council to come to a mutually agreed position, especially in regard to the roof, which I agree with them on. But they included other matters in their enforcement notice, which I had no option but to appeal.”

Councillors took more than an hour to debate the issues, deciding that there had been ten breaches of planning control, including with the roof height, the house’s location and the brickwork banding. They asked their officers to investigate two more potential breaches.

Councillors were gearing up to vote on taking a new enforcement action which could effectively mean that the house would have to be demolished. But Tracy Darke, the council’s director of growth, economy and culture, said despite hearing from Mr Whale, they had no reason to change their opinion.

“You could require us to seek counsel opinion as well,” she said. And that lead to Cllr Andrew Geary (Cons, Newport North & Hanslope) proposing an amendment to an already-proposed motion to “deal with breaches in their totality”.

“It is not a no to demolition, it’s a not yet,” he said.

Cllr Geary wanted to make sure that any decision to go down that route could be defended and that the council’s officers were comfortable with taking that action. Councillors heard that if an inspector took the view that demolition is unreasonable, the whole house would be allowed to stay, alleged breaches and all.

The committee chairman, Cllr John Bint (Cons, Broughton) said he did not support the amendment.

But Cllr Geary’s amendment won the day and the item was deferred until the committee’s meeting in November.

The decision disappointed local protesters, who said, after the meeting that it had already been dragging on for more than one year. And Mr Herman said residents were considering whether to claim their costs against the council.