Man fights council order at planning inquiry

Chalk Road, Brandon.  Small Fen Farm is the focus of a planning enquiry.
Chalk Road, Brandon. Small Fen Farm is the focus of a planning enquiry.
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A homeowner has told a planning inquiry he repeatedly asked council officers if he should be paying council tax - before receiving a £7,500 bill.

David Usher, of Small Fen Farm, Small Fen Lane, Chalk Road, Brandon, told a planning inspector this week that he had asked for advice from Forest Heath District Council ‘several times’ since 2003.

Mr Usher said: “We asked when people came down whether we should be paying it or not, but we never got an answer.”

Mr Usher added that he was yet to pay the bill while he tried to fight a planning enforcement notice.

This week’s hearing - which took place from Tuesday to Thursday - centres on Mr Usher’s property, part of which planners say he has changed into a residential dwelling without planning permission.

Rod Evans, the Government’s planning inspector, was told Mr Usher bought the site in 2003, having lived there since 1997.

Mr Usher claimed he had initially lived in the site’s northern building, while renovating the southern building.

He moved into the southern building in 2011 with his wife and step-son following the completion of renovation.

Neighbours have complained that the renovation of the southern building is not sympathetic to the area.

But Mr Usher said Forest Heath council officers had visited him ‘numerous times’ since 2003, and no objection had been made.

That included a site visit from former council enforcement officer, Malcolm Allison, as recently as 2010.

David Beighton, current principal planner for Forest Heath, was also present at that visit, according to Mr Usher, who said the officers told him there was no need for planning permission.

Clare Parry, counsel for Forest Heath, said the council had no record of officers visiting the site before 2009.

Evidence was also given by Bill Bishop, Suffolk County Councillor for Brandon.

A decision on the hearing is expected within eight weeks.