Councillors vow to get a grip of controversial Milton Keynes planning enforcement issues

Residents and developers are getting away with breaking planning rules and councillors want to get a grip of it.

But members of the Development Control Committee heard on Thursday that Milton Keynes Council has only recently recruited a third planning enforcement officer.

An aerial picture of the site in Willen

An aerial picture of the site in Willen

The issue has crystallised around a controversial house in Portland Drive, Willen, where neighbours are at war over several alleged breaches of agreed plans.

Applicant Manoj Srivastava received permission to demolish a bungalow and build a house in its place. But his builders built a bigger house, with a higher roof. He is contesting MK Council’s enforcement action against him.

The controversial issue has ignited feelings in Willen, where neighbours of Mr Srivastava have received a barrister’s advice on what to do. They say the house is unsightly while Mr Srivastava has argued at a previous committee that he should be given planning permission.

Barrister Stephen Whale told Thursday’s Development Control Committee that he was hoping to see the council issue a fresh notice for Mr Srivastava to demolish his house.

“That is not going to be the outcome this evening but we are hoping that it will be the decision,” Mr Whale said. He said there had been conflicts between the council’s own reports and he hoped that they could reach “common ground on the extent of the breaches.”

Gary Dunne, the council’s senior planning enforcement officer, said the council had decided which of the alleged breaches it was “expedient” to take action against.

Cllr Brian Greenwood chairs the planning, infrastructure and transport committee of Campbell Park Parish Council, which covers the Portland Drive area.

He said: “If things like this are allowed to be got away with it opens the floodgates and it carries on. I would support any enforcement action.”

Cllr Terry Baines (Cons, Campbell Park & Old Woughton) said three enforcement officers was not enough. “Why aren’t we doing the job that we are meant to do?”

And Cllr Andrew Geary (Cons, Newport Pagnell North & Hanslope) said: “If our planning enforcement was any woollier I would shear it like one of my sheep.”

Council officers said they would try to get a report on the Portland Drive issue in time for the committee’s September meeting, but staff holidays meant that this could be October.

Cllr Ric Brackenbury (Lib Dem, Campbell Park & Old Woughton) said he did not want to bog the enforcement team down with producing reports for the committee when they could be spending their time taking enforcement action.

But chairman Cllr John Bint (Cons, Broughton) said the committee was within its rights to bring enforcement issues to it.

The committee voted by nine votes to one, with one abstention to bring the issue back to members. They also receive a list of enforcement action being taken, and rather than seeing a list, they have asked for more details.