Plans row bill paid by taxpayer

THE taxpayer will pick up the bill for a second public inquiry next week which will decide the fate of more than 100 residents facing eviction from a retirement park, after the first was quashed.

Homes at Lakeminster Park, Beverley

Around 130 householders on Lakeminster Park, near Beverley, have been living on a “knife edge”, in fear of being made homeless, since an inspector upheld East Riding Council’s refusal of planning permission allowing them to live there all year round.

However, a second inquiry was ordered after the inspector was found to have “erred in law”.

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The Planning Inspectorate has indicated to both sides in the dispute it will pay their costs as it was their mistake.

The inquiry, which starts on Tuesday, will hear appeals by Lakeminster Park Ltd and retired civil servant and resident Alan Coates against the council’s refusal to grant retrospective planning permission in 2012 to allow the park homes to be used for permanent residential occupation as well as appeals relating to two enforcement notices.

It will be held by a different inspector - Diane Lewis - at County Hall, Beverley, and is expected to last at least two weeks. Two barristers will represent the council, Nicola Allen and human rights specialist Philip Engelman.

Resident Doreen Ratcliffe, 63, who lives on the estate with husband Gary, sold their house in Bradford three-and-a half years ago to buy a home at Lakeminster Park for £140,000, thinking they could live there all year round.

Mrs Ratcliffe, who retired after working 30 years as an administrator at the University of Bradford said hopes of a peaceful retirement home had turned into a nightmare. She said “It’s been quite depressing. We still don’t know what’s going to happen, but hopefully we are in with a chance.

“We thought Lakeminster was an ideal retirement place with like-minded people and good community spirit. We thought, and hopefully it still will be, our last move. We can’t afford to go anywhere else.”

Mrs Ratcliffe said she’d queried the level of council tax six months after moving in and had continued to pay the full amount, just under £1000, adding: “The council could have sorted this out, but because they have taken against the owner, we are piggy in the middle.”

Like many residents, who don’t have relatives locally, she fears she won’t be able to get a council house, adding: “It’s crazy, everybody to my knowledge is paying council tax, but if they evict us a lot of people will be putting in for benefits.”

She will be among dozen residents will tell the inquiry how their lives have been affected by the three-year saga.

Mr Coates said: “People have experienced a variety of worsening conditions health-wise and part of that is attributable to the stress that we have endured for over three years now. The prospect of losing your home is quite devastating for many people.”

Head of planning and development management Pete Ashcroft said the council understood the “sad” position many residents found themselves in and had always advised them to take their own independent legal advice, which could eventually lead to compensation.

He added: “The council has offered to consider and deal with any housing matters that arise from this matter on a case by case basis.”

Anybody made homeless would get a “very high housing priority.”

The council will put in a claim to the Planning Inspectorate for costs, which are likely to include legal fees, copying documents and officer time.