Councillor granted permission to live in property - even though it's been his home for ten years
PUBLISHED: 17:13 28 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:13 28 October 2019
A district councillor in charge of planning has been granted legal permission to live in a former agricultural property - even though he has lived there for the past ten years.
Gordon Bambridge, Conservative councillor for Upper Wensum, applied to Breckland Council for permission to use a bungalow in Hockering, on Gypsy Lane, as a dwelling for a "person not within agricultural occupancy".
But Mr Bambridge, Breckland's cabinet member for planning, had in fact been living at the property, known as Jay's, for the past ten years, where he had previously run a smallholding.
After the business became unviable more than a decade ago, his efforts to sell the remainder of the farm were unsuccessful - and the restriction on the property became "immune from enforcement" after being in breach for more than 10 years.
And at a planning committee meeting, held on Monday, October 25, officers recommended the application - which had been reviewed by a law firm - should be approved, and said it had only been put to the committee due to Mr Bambridge's role as councillor.
But Roger Atterwill, an Independent district councillor, asked whether the property had been put up for sale.
He said: "The applicant should have demonstrated they had put the property up for sale for a period of six months prior to this application to demonstrate there no agricultural interest."
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But surveyor Matthew Cutting said Mr Bambridge wasn't "required to advertise and market the property".
While Breckland planning officer Mark Symonds added: "We wouldn't consider it reasonable to ask them to do that."
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Atterwill said: "I wanted to make sure he had put the land up for sale. I believe that's good practice.
"If nobody wanted it as a going concern, change the condition.
"I just wanted to make sure due process is followed."
And Mr Bambridge said the property was "informally put up for sale for considerably longer than [six months] but it wasn't advertised with an estate agent".
He added: "I can't really comment on it, [but] all I can say is everything about this application was done with the full knowledge of the council and the planning committee."
The use of the property, and the removal of the condition, were both approved, with Mr Atterwill abstaining on both votes.