A judge has ordered a Brent landlord to pay the record sum of £1.438 million for turning a house into 12 flats without planning consent following a two year intensive investigation by Brent Council.
The sum must be paid within six months or the landlord will face a ten year prison sentence, a judge sitting at Norwich Crown Court ordered.
The order to pay the money follows a prosecution brought by planning enforcement officers from Brent Council against a landlord who had continuously flouted planning regulations in the borough for the last ten years.
Brent’s Planning Enforcement Team used powers that enable councils to seek to recover the ‘proceeds of crime’. The case related to the failure to comply with the requirements of a planning enforcement notice for a property on Willesden Lane which had been converted from one house into 12 flats.
The £1.438 million order is believed to be the highest confiscation order granted for a planning offence in the country and is based on the assumed benefit that the landlord received from breaching planning regulations.
The Wembley landlord was also ordered to pay a fine of £4000 for the breach of the planning regulations and legal costs of almost £35,000. Brent Council will receive 37.5 per cent of the money and the rest will go to the treasury and the court collection agency. A restraint order has been placed on the guilty man to prevent him from disposing of his assets before he fulfils his obligations and pays the £1.438 million.
Chris Walker Brent Council’s Assistant Director of Planning and Major Projects said: “This landlord ignored planning rules designed to ensure that the quality of accommodation in the boroughs is maintained and that the environment for surrounding residents is protected. He ignored the council’s notices and as a result, he profited hugely from this sub-standard accommodation.”
Cllr George Crane was interviewed on ITV News and the clip can be viewed from the video below.
The planning application for the new Willesden Green Cultural Centre which was submitted in May has been withdrawn. A new application will be submitted to Brent Council later in the year. In order to provide more time to refine the design for the new cultural centre to meet our specification, Galliford Try have now withdrawn the existing planning application.
The Council and Galliford Try will now extend the consultation period for the redevelopment and use the summer months to hold further engagement activities with local people and other stakeholders. These will include the design of the new cultural centre and the activities that people want to see in the building once it is complete.
The aim is to work towards a scheme to be considered by the planning committee by December 2012. The financial parameters of the project remain unchanged – ie. we will be delivering a Cultural Centre at no net capital cost to the Council.
The initial design proposals were the subject of consultation over several months and had already been amended in response to residents’ feedback.
Cllr George Crane, Brent Councillor for Regeneration and Major Projects said: “We want this project to help kick start regeneration for the whole of the Willesden area.”
“We are absolutely committed to delivering a top class building for all of the residents in the borough and this is still our intention. Development opportunities like this don’t come along every day and we are quite prepared to delay things if the end result is a better facility for local people. This redevelopment has never been a foregone conclusion as some people have claimed and this extra time for discussion demonstrates that. “
“From the outset we have always been clear that residents were at the heart of this project, it needs to be at no capital cost and result in a quality development – these principles remain unchanged.”
Tony Blackburn, Land Director at Galliford Try, added: “This will be a landmark building serving the local community. As such, we want to ensure that we get it absolutely right and that what we deliver reflects the aspirations of the community, and in particular of those who will use its outstanding facilities. If it takes a little more time, then it will be worth it”.
Details about the consultation and engagement events will be publicised in due course.
It was disappointing to see local MP Sarah Teather “saddened” at the Council’s plans to regenerate Willesden High Road. The new Library and Cultural Centre will be a major Civic building in the southern part of Brent and a major boost to the regeneration of the area for business, shops and residents.
Both Willesden Bookshop and BIAS will be assisted by the Council to find alternative accommodation in the High Road, in one of the many empty shops. The Council has also approved a detailed interim delivery strategy for the Library, Museum and Archive during the rebuilding period. The Customer contact point will be temporarily re located to the Job Centre in Harlesden a short bus ride away. Adequate study space is being planned at a number of locations in the vicinity. Local Liberal democrat Councillors are very supportive of the plans and see the potential long term benefits for the area.
What is of more interest is the deafening silence from Sarah Teather at the devastating news that London Mayor Boris Johnson has rejected Brent’s bid for 1.6 million pounds to continue the regeneration work in Willesden. Last year the Council implemented a very successful project “New Windows on Willesden”. The rejected Brent bid was for this project to continue during 2012. I hope the Brent Central MP will join me and Navin Shah Brent London Assembly member in asking Boris Johnson to reconsider Brent’s bid.
At a Council meeting last November the Coalition parties made much of the Mayor of London’s Outer London Regeneration Fund so it comes as some surprise to see that both of Brent Council’s bids have been denied. Brent’s Lead Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, Cllr George Crane has expressed his disbelief that the Mayor has chosen to ignore the needs of Outer London’s most diverse borough.
Brent put in a bid for 1.65 million to continue the successful work started in Willesden High Road in an earlier bid agreed last year. The bid would have helped transform Willesden Green High Road by renting some empty shop units on a long-term basis. These would be used by emerging businesses to help employment and skills of local people. The other part of the bid was to improve the area around the Willesden Green Library centre and make it a focal point to showcase local creative talent. (For more info on Willesden project see http://willesdenwindows.com )
The second bid was for 1.8 million for Ealing Road between Wembley Central and Alperton. The programme was designed to promote Ealing Road to deliver physical, economic social and cultural benefits to Ealing Road, Wembley and Brent.
Ealing Road is already attracting high visitor numbers from around London and beyond with its unique style of Indian shopping experience.
Cllr Crane said
”All our neighbouring Boroughs have received money and it is difficult to understand why Brent has been singled out to have both projects rejected..
I will be asking Navin Shah, Brent’s London Assembly Member to raise this with Mayor Johnson and ask him to reconsider both Brent’s bids.”