Cummings “Spare Cottage” Without Planning Permission and Pays No Council Tax
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Dominic Cummimgs; Senior Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, made it clear that he had stayed at a “spare cottage” at his father’s farm when he addressed allegations that he had broken lockdown restrictions in April. In an Exclusive, I can now reveal that the cottage in question is not registered for Council Tax, nor has planning permission be sought for the cottage from Durham County Council.
I recently wrote how the “spare cottage” that Dominic Cummings stated he stayed at on his father’s farm near Durham, is in-fact jointly owned by himself and his family. This would therefore make Mr Cummings trip less of a journey for childcare, and more one to a second home, something was strictly prohibited at the time he travelled 260 miles north from London.
Whilst I was investigating the property’s ownership, I noticed something odd. Nowhere, on any database, does the cottage show up as a property in its own right. What makes it even easier to notice this was the fact the Cummings’ farm at North Lodge, is the only property in the entire postcode.
No Council Tax
My first stop was to check if the property was registered for Council tax. The government website direct.gov has a facility for you to search a postcode to find a properties Council Tax Band.
A search of DH1 3SU, the postcode of the property jointly owned by Dominic Cummings, yields just one result; North Lodge, Durham. In the entire postcode, only the single Cummings property is listed as Band D. So lets take a look at an aerial photograph of North Lodge.
Above is an aerial view of the Cummings’ Durham property. As can be seen there are two distinct buildings. The main building on the right, is North Lodge itself, this was confirmed when I obtained the property deeds form HM Land Registry. On the left is the distinct green roofed building, better known as the “spare cottage” Dominic Cummings and his family are believed to have stayed in whilst away from London. Below is a photograph taken of the cottage from outside the property, it quite clearly shows that it not a shed or farm building.
Cummings himself has stated that he stayed in a separate cottage, this in itself helps in proving that it is a separate building used for human habitation. Durham County Council has no record of this building having been registered for Council tax, nor has an exemption been sought.
No Evidence of Planning Consent
Secondly, I looked into whether the cottage had planning permission. To start with I obtained the plans and deeds from HM Land Registry. As can be seen, the deeds in 1983 show no additional building, and in 2013 when Mr Cummings was shown to be owner, no mention of a second property is made.
Below is the full documentation which I obtained from HM Land Registry. The Cummings family are the owners of two plots at North Lodge.
What is most important in this instance, is the Land Registry having a stipulation that “ANY structure” requires written permission prior to construction from the UK Coal Authority (UKCA). I contacted the UKCA earlier in the week and can confirm that no permission has been sought for a structure in the area the green roofed building exists.
I then took to Durham County Council’s very easy to use Planning Portal. Searching the postcode, again only the single property showed up. Looking through the planning applications, there is no mention of an outbuilding or cottage.
I contacted Durham County Council’s Planning Department to confirm that there is no planning permission, but received no response. This is understandable given current circumstances. However, their planning portal is very accurate and covers a long period. As can be seen from previous photographs, the cottage is not in its elder years. In addition, the Land Registry notes that the land the property lies on is a Conservation Zone. Therefore, it is even more important that permission should have been sought.
I have spoken to an official from a Council Planning Department in England who states that; it is possible, if not likely, that planning permission would have been/be rejected due to the following issues.
- Increased traffic on/off trunk road.
- Building not in fitting with Conservation Zone
- No permission from UK Coal Authority
Furthermore, it is unlikely that the cottage has permission, as if it did, the local authority would be well aware of it and Council Tax would be being levied against the property. The cottage is on no database that I can find, only the main property, which itself is considerably larger than it was in 1983 can be found.
Council Tax in England is decided on the what the property’s value would have been in April 1991. In the case of North Lodge, it has been assessed as Band D, which the government website tells us means the property would have sold for between £68,001 to £88,000 in April 1991. Whilst the original significantly smaller North Lodge may have fallen within this valuation, the extended and much more lavish lodge of today certainly would not. It’s current valuation is around £650,000, and this doesn’t take into account the “spare cottage” and other connected annexes they claim to have. It is important to note also, that any annex attached to the main building that is not used by a dependent family member, should also be registered for Council Tax.
In addition, the cottage is constructed on a separate piece of land to the main residence. This highlights it as being less ancillary to the main residence, and more of a separate domestic dwelling in its own right.
Whilst agricultural properties do have some exemptions around planning, the UKCA stipulation for prior consent, and the building being in a Natural Heritage Conservation Zone, voids any exemption that may have applied.
This once again shows that Dominic Cummings operates a do as I say, not as I do policy. Whilst this would normally be a damning indictment on a senior government advisor, Boris Johnson has shown that Cummings is indispensable and will be protected at all costs. It makes you wonder what he’s so scared of.
UPDATE: June 2nd 2020.
Durham County Council have confirmed they have opened an investigation into the Cottage. FULL STORY HERE
Durham County Council have CONFIRMED that planning permission was not correct and that it will be re-valued for Council tax.
So now we can officially day that Dominic Cummings travelled to a home he owns a d that has been avoiding Council Tax for an undetermined number of years.
Please share this exclusive article as mainstream outlets are refusing to cite me.