Durham Council open investigation into cummings lockdown cottage

Dominic Cummings Durham County Council
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Durham County Council (DCC) have confirmed that they have opened an investigation into Dominic Cummings cottage at North Lodge following complaints that it does not have the correct planning permissions or council tax banding. The investigation came about after I broke the story surrounding the “spare cottage” Mr Cummings stated he stayed at during his trip north during lockdown.

I previously wrote that the property near Durham that Dominic Cummings described as a “spare cottage” on his father’s farm, is in-fact jointly owned by Mr Cummings himself along with his parents and other family members. This then raised questions as to whether Cummings trip was more a journey to a second home, something that was strictly prohibited at the time, rather than a dash for childcare aswas claimed.

During my investigations into the property’s ownership, I noticed that despite it being reported that Cummings had lived in this property in 2002, there was no record of it having been registered for council tax, nor was there any planning permission for it to become a residential dwelling. Rather, there was no record of it ever having planning permission granted.

In light of that, I broke the exclusive story on the fact the “spare cottage” was missing planning permissions and council tax banding. The story spread quickly across social media with prominent figures such as Alistair Campbell and Carole Cadwalladr commenting. However, there was significant pushback.

A bone of contention for many that was it may not need planning permission as it would fall under an agricultural exemption. While this may have been true in some cases, there is one important fact that matters here. The Land Registry Documentation states that the land is within a conservation area, therefore, any construction requires planning permission to ensure that it is fitting with the surroundings along with other considerations. Secondly, the deeds also state that the UK Coal Authority must approve the construction of any structure, something that it was not done in the case of Cummings’ cottage.

It is true that they could apply for retrospective planning permission, this was never in question. However, given it is certainly not in line with the original property and is merely a “concrete bunker,” (Cummings description), it may not receieve that permission for Durham County Council.

It is also important to note that Mr Cummings is a non dependent of his father, so his previous residence there in the early 2000s, should have seen the property registered for Council Tax at the time. The cottage is not an extension of the main property, and Cummings has himself called it a “spare cottage,” indicating it is a property in its own right. It may have been exempt if used for agricultural workers, but during Dominic Cummings residence, it should have been valued for Council Tax Banding.

Investigation Opened

The Northern Echo have now reported that Durham County Council (DCC) have opened an investigation into the cottage and the issues surrounding its status. This comes after several complaints where submitted following the investigation.

A spokesperson for Durham County Council said in a statement;

“We have received a number of complaints and are currently looking into the matter.”

One of the complaints which I was sent when it was submitted relates to an alleged “unauthorised material change of use of building to residential occupation and associated alterations”

A response to one of the complainants from a senior enforcement officer at Durham County Council says:

“I am the case officer and will be investigating your concerns.

“The investigation will seek to establish whether there has been a breach of planning control.

“If there has not been a breach of planning control you will be informed at the earliest opportunity that no further action will be taken and the case file closed. If a breach of planning control is identified, further investigation will be required, and you will be updated at relevant times.

“You should be aware that some enforcement cases may take some time to resolve and, furthermore, the current restrictions imposed as a result of coronavirus may affect the speed of our investigation and, we would ask for your patience at this time.”

Mary Foy, MP for Durham City

Durham City MP Mary Foy told the Northern Echo;

“We had quite a number of emails about it. If they don’t have planning permission, then they asked for retrospective planning permission, they could be asked to pull the house down, but I do not know how strict the council are on that type of thing.”

I will now continue to keep an eye on developments as they arise and keep you updated. Boris Johnson had hoped the spotlight would be taken off Dominic Cummings, but it appears that isn’t going to happen just yet.

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  • Well done on this investigation and this research. Sometimes individuals can make a difference. Well done and I hope justice comes from this. At one point Johnson said something along the lines of ‘It’s not like this is a second home or anything’ when that’s prcisely what it was. Hi poor excuses to defend Cummings are getting thinner

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  • Valerie Bayliss

    Great stuff. Have you looked at D Cummings’ record as a company director? Free on the Companies House website. I have; interesting, especially as it tells you he is a former director of DAFFT Ltd, whose registered office is….The White House, Darlington Rd DH1 3SS. I do wonder if this is the white-walled property behind North Lodge….. DAFFT has as director and co secretary Matthew Herriott, who is I presume a relation of Cummings. Robert Cummings is an ex-director.

    • That postcode is about half a mile further South

      • And if you look at street view at that postcode you will see a white painted house, set back from the road amongst the trees.. (whether it is “The” white house mentioned in this blog is another matter)

  • It is good that the Council has opened an investigation. It is concerning that they think it might take a long time because once they have read the article I would thought they just need to interview a resident – by phone would be fine in the first instance , check their registers, and the case is established. I hope there is not pressure to kick this into the long grass.

    There is a lot of focus on planning permission.As per my comment on the earlier article, in the end I expect they will get retrospective planning permission, though that may be a long road. The more important point in my eyes is the payment of Council tax that is owing. If I understand correctly there are three independent dwellings and only one is registered for Council Tax. It may be the the Council are starting with the Planning Permission issue. I hope they have the Council tax owing for bother additional properties in their sights.
    I understand it may be Business Rates instead if the property is used for holiday lets and there is a period fr which it has to be available for holiday letting in that case – easy to prove – but presumably the sister’s house is not a letting property?

  • Re the comments above on the companies that Dominic Cummings (DC) has interests in. DAFFT Ltd is the name and body which the farm is trading under. Robert A Cummings was a director up to 09/02/2017. He is the father of DC. Matthew Herriott was appointed director on 09/02/2017. He is the brother in law of DC, ie married to his sister Francesca M Herriott, nee Cummings. The registered office of DAFFT Ltd was changed on 10/02/2017, this was from North Lodge to The White House.

    DC had a company by the name of Dominic Cummings Ltd, the registered office was 55 North Cross Road, London SE22 9ET. Incorporated 2007 and struck off 2019.

    Then there is Dynamic Maps Ltd to which DC was appointed director on 06/10/2017. It states it provides Information Technology Services.

    Then there is Klute Ltd, incorporated 16/12/2010, DC appointed director 11/02/2011. This is shown to be a dormant company.

  • Geoffrey Graydon

    Good morning and

  • There are tax implications for this as well. It looks as though DAFFT Ltd has disposed of land, and or buildings, to Dominic Cummings. This would create a chargeable event for Captial Gains Tax purposes. It would be interesting to know whether this has been declared and included in the company accounts. The land etc would be transferred at market value if no consideration was paid for it.

  • It just shows you how things can be hidden when you are the gov one rule for them and one rule for others it is a bloody joke Of course I think we all deserve what we get and the reason is We TOLERATE IT time we let this lot know they are a load of lying toads .probably some of them know what goes on but don’t have the balls to speak up for fear of losing their cushy jobs WELL WHAT ELSE CAN I SAY .. WE ARE SOMETHING ELSE

  • It is perhaps short sighted to develop a property without appropriate permissions when it is located just across the road from the Council offices!