Self-builder in Middleton Cheney faces levy of £48,800 and fine after starting work on home before telling planners

Graham Evans on his self-build plot in Middleton Cheney. NNL-180116-153853009
Graham Evans on his self-build plot in Middleton Cheney. NNL-180116-153853009

A self-builder in Middleton Cheney, is facing a levy of £48,800 – for building ONE house.

Graham Evans is building his own home on Chacombe Road and received planning permission from South Northants Council in January last year.

Although house builders have to pay a community infrastructure levy (CIL) which was introduced by the government in 2008 so local authorities can use it to help deliver infrastructure to their area, people who are building their own home can apply for an exemption.

Mr Evans’ application for an exemption was accepted, but in April he was shocked to receive a CIL demand for £48,800 and a fine for £2,500 – based on a technicality.

Planners at SNC are arguing because Mr Evans started clearing work on site before notifying the council, he is disqualified from receiving a CIL exemption. CIL rules state work must not start before the planning authority receives a commencement notice once the exemption has been granted.

But Mr Evans says he was still awaiting the discharge of two conditions of his planning permission and believed he could not submit a commencement notice until that occurred.

His architect, Nick Price, has written the same thing to planning officer Clare Whitehead, adding lawful start on a development could only have been deemed to have taken place once all pre-commencement conditions were discharged, removed or complied with.

But in response Mrs Whitehead wrote planning permission was not required for a development to be CIL liable.

Mr Evans’ solicitor from Feldon Dunsmore, said CIL liability could not apply to unlawful development as the intention of the CIL planning guidance is ‘applicable to ‘new development’ and applies to ‘planning consent’.’

He wrote: “The reference it makes to ‘normally’ in the first paragraph refers to the possibility of permitted development resulting in a CIL liability, not we would suggest in any way related to unlawful development.”

Mr Evans said the dispute was taking a toll on his health and was leaving him in financial difficulty.

He has also made an official complaint to SNC’s chief executive Yvonne Rees, claiming planning officers were uncooperative. He has written to South Northants MP Andrea Leadsom who has sent letters to Mrs Rees and communities and local government secretary Sajid Javid. To Mrs Rees, Mrs Leadsom wrote Mr Evans believed ‘there had been a determined pursuit of him to collect the levy and thus a deliberate policy to avoid providing him with the appropriate advice or working to reach a compromise.’

Roger Clarke, South Northants councillor for planning and the environment, said: “SNC understands Mr Evans’ situation and the unfortunate position in which he finds himself. However, the legislation laid down by the government regarding the CIL is clear and regrettably provides no room for us to make exceptions.

“We must maintain a consistent approach to all cases and take action where there have been breaches of national legislation. Every home builder should be aware of the requirements for payment and the consequences of not complying.

“As a council we provide clear guidance to the CIL process on our website and do all we can to make sure applicants and developers are fully informed of the process, as well as the consequences, should they fail to follow it correctly. Officers are also available to offer guidance and support throughout the process. SNC is aware the government has recently carried out a review of the CIL regulations and will be consulting on any changes it proposes to make. We await the result of that review with interest.

“Should there be any major changes then we will look closely at how they impact on the way we administer CIL.”