Council denies intimidation'

PUBLISHED: 12:33 18 August 2006 | UPDATED: 22:07 28 May 2010

A COUNCIL has hit back at allegations that its enforcement officers shouted at the chairman of Hazelmere Homes intimidating not only myself, but other members of my staff . Michael Phillips is now threatening legal action against Fenland District Council

A COUNCIL has hit back at allegations that its enforcement officers shouted at the chairman of Hazelmere Homes "intimidating not only myself, but other members of my staff".

Michael Phillips is now threatening legal action against Fenland District Council and says he will be reporting a councillor to the Standards Board following a row over the building of 29 homes at Christchurch.

He also said he would be lodging formal complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman over the alleged conduct of council officers.

Mr Phillips said it was "simply not true" that the council had either written, e-mailed or phoned him or his solicitors prior to the enforcement.

But in a detailed response Fenland Council says its enforcement officer Steve Robshaw spoke to Mr Phillips simply "to raise the council's concern relating to the relevant planning control issues". Council spokesman Terry Brownbill added: "This was not an attempt to intimidate Mr Phillips."

Mr Brownbill said the enforcement notice against Hazelmere Homes had, as of Tuesday, not been withdrawn since some outstanding conditions had not been met.

"Enforcement was issued in a wholly appropriate way," he said. "Most of the 29 homes on the site had been completed and no planning permission had at the time been granted."

He said enforcement action was taken only as a last resort when there was a serious breach of planning control.

"Officers took the view that building 29 homes without planning permission, constitutes a serious breach. Fenland District Council officers and lawyers were in oral, e-mail and written communication with Hazelmere and its solicitors on this matter.

"Officers believed formal action was needed to resolve all the outstanding planning control issues."

None of this has satisfied Mr Phillips who claims the enforcement notice was illegal, and he accused Nigel Brown, chief planning officer, of acting "in such an unprofessional manner with no consideration for Fenland's guidance documents and, perhaps more importantly, with no consideration for my company".

He also accused Mr Robshaw of intimidating himself and Hazelmere staff.

Mr Brownbill said the council could not be held responsible for delays by Hazelmere in resolving outstanding planning issues, even though the company responded quickly when they discovered what was missing.

"While there was a delay this was not in any way attributable to the council or the council's officers," said Mr Brownbill.

"It is difficult to see how there was any doubt Hazelmere Homes was in serious breach of planning control from an early stage.

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