An Essex homeowner who built an extension without planning consent could have to sell house to cover legal costs

The illegal extension at 3 Lane Cottages, Mistley, before it was eventually demolished.

The illegal extension at 3 Lane Cottages, Mistley, before it was eventually demolished. - Credit: Archant

A north Essex council has been granted court permission to sell a man’s house to cover legal costs following a six-year planning battle.

Tendring District Council (TDC) has given Peter Thompson-Bates one month to pay court costs to the authority.

If he does not he risks having the house, in Mistley, sold to recover the debt.

Mr Thompson-Bates owes the council more than £20,000 following a dispute over an extension to an outbuilding which began in 2009.

Extensions were added to an existing outbuilding at Lane Cottages in the grounds of Constable Place.

Planning officials at TDC served an enforcement notice in 2009, which was appealed against by Mr Thompson-Bates first to the Planning Inspectorate and then to the High Court. However, both cases were dismissed.

The enforcement notice, which had been held up by the appeals, eventually came into force in 2011 and since then Mr Thompson-Bates has made several attempts to obtain planning permission for the extensions – but they have all been refused by the council.

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Appeals of those refusals have since been withdrawn and there are no outstanding planning or court matters relating to the extension.

Norwich County Court granted TDC an injunction against Mr Thompson-Bates last April, and in his absence legal costs of £21,324.50 were awarded to the council.

A challenge was made by Mr Thompson-Bates, but was denied during a hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court on October 31. TDC has now successfully applied for an Order of Sale on the property, which it has delayed for one month to allow Mr Thompson-Bates to repay the costs or appeal against the decision.

Nigel Brown, TDC’s communications manager, said an Order of Sale was the very last resort in a bid to recover the legal costs.

He said: “The costs relate to an injunction requiring Mr Thompson-Bates, the joint owner of the property, to comply with an outstanding Planning Enforcement Notice at the address.

“The considerable costs arise from past hearings and are still unpaid. A significant amount of public money has been spent and the council has a responsibility to recover it.

“The delay in the Order of Sale still gives Mr Thompson-Bates a further chance to repay the debt before the deadline.”

The council added that numerous attempts had been made by the authority to negotiate a solution to the matter out of court, but all had failed.