Residents on a quiet street in Milton Keynes are urging MK Council to take a firm line with builders who flout planning rules, warning that otherwise no road, avenue or close will be safe from totally unsuitable development.
The planning nightmare started in a leafy cul-de-sac in Heelands, which for decades was a pleasant close of self-build homes. However, some years ago a builder who had originally built a 4-bedroom house started turning it into two semi-detached dwellings – mostly without planning permission. One has two bedrooms and the other has six, which has effectively doubled the size of the original house. There is also a 1-bedroom ‘outhouse’ in the back, while the garage and most of the front garden have gone. This massive dwelling is now fronted by an unsightly car park.
Yet even though this was done without planning permission the cheeky builder filed a retrospective application to regularise the development in 2019.
Fortunately, MKC refused permission. The senior enforcement officer even went on to assure delighted neighbours that the unauthorised works would be removed.
But MKC failed to act. Unbelievably, it gave the builder a second chance, and in May 2020 it allowed him to resubmit his retrospective application which had been rejected the previous year. The issue is coming to a head at this week’s planning committee.
“The property is completely out of scale and out of place in this cul-de-sac,” explains Dr Michael Devine, one of the objectors. “Indeed, it would be best suited as a factory unit on some industrial estate!”
Robin Bradburn, local ward Councillor, has also written to the Council describing this as an “ongoing saga of planning avoidance, retrospective applications and even granted applications which have exercised the patience of many residents” adding that “the residents view [this] as a person who flouts regulations without consequence.”
Curiously, local residents seem to have a firmer grasp of planning law than the officers. They have been pointing out, to anyone who will listen, that according to the Town and Country Planning Act applicants only have one chance to submit a retrospective application for something they shouldn’t have built in the first place, and if it is refused, that’s it. Game over.
Yet this applicant has got lucky. Not only did the planning department fail to spot his second attempt and throw it out but they are now recommending approval!
Residents say that they are stressed out dealing with this planning nightmare. But this Thursday, 16 July, they are relying on members of the planning committee to reject it once and for all, and to insist that the house is restored to its former state.
If not, what sort of message will it send out?
Dr Devine says “Unless this is refused, MK Council will be saying that anyone who buys a house in MK can convert it into two, larger dwellings without bothering to get planning permission beforehand, knowing they are likely to get away with it!”