Bungalow is 'unfit to live in' - council

A Norfolk council yesterday stated its case at a public inquiry for compulsorily purchasing a village home which it claims has been wrecked by disastrous DIY.

A Norfolk council yesterday stated its case at a public inquiry for compulsorily purchasing a village home which it claims has been wrecked by disastrous DIY.

The planning inspector presiding over the inquiry at Acle War Memorial Hall was told that Broadland District Council had fought a 10-year battle with owner Martin Milner to persuade him to improve his chalet bungalow in Cantley, near Yarmouth, after he had ripped out the bathroom and kitchen and dug up the concrete floor.

The home also had electric wires hanging dangerously loose, a hole in the roof caused by the removal of a chimney and a garden and neighbouring plot described by fed-up local people as eyesores and junkyards.

Outlining the council's case, solicitor Chris Skinner acknowledged that Mr Milner, 60, suffered severely from manic depression, also known as bipolar syndrome, which led to terrible bouts of depression that completely disabled him.

The council had resorted to issuing a compulsory purchase order as “a last resort” amid complaints about the state of the property.

Mr Milner said via a text message that he was too ill to attend the inquiry but his grown-up son and three daughters gave evidence, along with his ex-wife Jacqueline.

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The council's principal witness, private-sector housing manager John McAleely, said the house in Station Road first came to his attention in 1995 when the authority approved an application for a �6,000 renovation grant for wall, floor and window repairs, and for the installation of a new boiler.

The grant-aided work was abandoned when Mr Milner fell out with the builder and he then made things worse with his own large-scale DIY efforts, completely gutting the kitchen and bathroom.

He said what was a “fundamentally sound property in 1996 had been rendered unfit to live in by 1999”.

Mr Milner later refused an interest-free �40,000 housing loan, which would only have had to be repaid if he sold the house within 20 years.

Mr McAleely said they had been very patient with Mr Milner - who had owned the house for 30 years - making allowances for the fact that his condition meant it took him a long time to respond.

He said the council only issued the CPO after Mr Milner moved into social housing - he later moved back when he heard about the action, which he appealed against.

Mr Milner's son Giles said the CPO was not in the public interest as there would be no net gain.

He said the council's argument that it would lead to social and environmental improvements - its justification for using the legislation - was unconvincing.

His daughters Emily, Alice and Katherine said their father was happy living a green lifestyle.

He used a wood burner with locally-sourced wood, collected rainwater which was connected to taps in the house and had a compost toilet.

They said the garden and neighbouring plot were not full of junk; they were items being stored for reuse. His daughters insisted their father had never been offered the necessary support to help his dialogue with the council.

Planning inspector Robert Marshall will visit the site today before submitting a report to the secretary of state for communities and local government who will decide if the CPO should go ahead.