Milton Keynes homeowner makes racism claim in heated Willen planning battle

A drone's eye view of the house
A drone's eye view of the house

A homeowner at the centre of an acrimonious planning battle claimed he faced racism in a campaign against him by neighbours.

Dr Manoj Srivastava and his planning agent Isaak Jackson appeared at a council committee yesterday (Thursday) in their bid to win retrospective planning permission for his house in Willen Drive, Milton Keynes.

Dr Srivastava had previously won planning permission to knock down a bungalow and build a new home on the site. But he now faces Milton Keynes Council enforcement action after his two-storey home with a loft was found to be much bigger than permitted.

The retrospective planning application was made in an attempt to gain permission for the new house.

Dr Srivastava said: “There has been a lot of emotion going around with this house,” which included “harassment, bullying and racism”.

He added: “I don’t know why people are making up stories but they are.” He added that he had been subjected to “atrocities”.

“Since we moved into Willen we have been subjected to derogatory comments on Facebook.

“People have come into the house with professional cameras and tried to take photographs of the house. People have been barging in while it’s being built and shouting at the labourers.

“There have been racist slurs.

“People have gone to the extent of getting the mortgage detail and writing to the mortgage company, putting me into financial difficulty.

“This is nothing but bullying tactics and harassment.”

He said if people had any problems they should “come and talk to me, I am very open to everyone. Come and talk to me; don’t sneak up.”

Dr Srivastava said he agreed that the pitch of his house roof should be changed but said other dimensions were in accord with what the council previously agreed to. He has lodged an appeal against the enforcement notice.

Ranged against Dr Srivastava were residents and councillors, including the current mayor of Milton Keynes, ward councillor Sam Crooks. The objectors spoke before Dr Srivastava made his comments.

Cllr Crooks said he had agreed with the original permission to demolish the bungalow and replace it with a house. But he now objects because “what has been constructed is unlawful.

“The council cannot condone unlawful activity that could set a precedent,” he said.

Neighbour and architect Julian Bussel said the house was “alien to the setting and character of Willen”, while Steve Helfet said the house looks like a “three-storey office block”.

Andrew Herman turned his fire on council enforcement officers and said: “The residents of Willen do not have confidence in planning enforcement.”

Council director of growth, economy and culture, Tracy Darke, said the application has been a frustrating one for officers. She said they had a “difficult time” in obtaining the retrospective planning application.

“It has been confusing and complex and difficult,” she said.

Cllr Andrew Geary said he had been “horrified” at what he saw when visiting the site and he was pleased that the latest application had been recommended for refusal.

Cllr Keith McLean said he abhorred personal attacks made but said the committee had to “try and divorce those aspects.”

And Cllr Ric Brackenbury, while he felt “sorry for the applicant” wanted to make a decision that supports the council’s enforcement officers.

The application for retrospective permission was refused unanimously by all the committee members.