Man’s SIX-YEAR nightmare as Hackney Council fails to act on neighbour’s illegal extension
PUBLISHED: 15:17 06 July 2016
Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 / flickr.com/julianb
A despairing homeowner spent six years banging his head against a brick wall while Hackney Council failed to get his neighbour to remove an illegal extension.
A damning report by the Local Government Ombudsman has ordered town hall chiefs to rewrite their planning enforcement policy as a result of their inaction and “dismal” communication with the man.
The watchdog also unearthed a backlog of 1,500 open enforcement cases dating back to 2001, which two officers have been given the unenviable task of sorting through and clearing.
The illegal extension includes a balcony overlooking the man’s bedroom and garden and has stopped him carrying out work to his own house.
A “flagrant disregard for the law” was shown by his neighbour “over several years”, the ombudsman added. He failed to comply with crown court orders and continued to build.
He even blocked council contractors – hired for £12,000 – from tearing down the extension when they turned up with police.
The unauthorised work began in May 2006 and the first enforcement notice was served in March 2009. The exasperated man bought his next-door house in 2010 thinking the council would enforce the action – but as of last month it was still standing.
The man complained to the ombudsman, who found “time and again” it was left to him to chase the council for updates – even after promises of improved communication from Hackney. Specialist contractors have now moved on site to remove the extension.
Ombudsman Dr Jane Martin said people could feel justifiably aggrieved when let down by their council.
She said: “I acknowledge this was a difficult situation for the council and recognise they have improved their communication over the past six months,” she added. The council has been ordered to pay the man £2,500, apologise and give him regular updates.
On the back of the investigation, the Ombudsman sent a warning to all planning authorities in the country about the need to act decisively when taking enforcement action.
Hackney said: “The council had already taken action against the unauthorised development prior to receiving the ombudsman report and will fully meet their recommendations, all of which apart from one were initiated by the council before the ombudsman reported.”
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