Last year, we reported on the criminal conviction of Wise Estates, Simon Low and Manlow Property Management for failing to abide by a planning enforcement notice.
All three defendants were in the dock over the same property, 9 Stonebridge Park in Brent, a small family home that had been converted into six micro-flats. Brent claimed that the defendants had converted these flats unlawfully, as they had not obtained planning permission. The defendants had previously claimed that they did not need permission as the property was an HMO, not a development of flats, a claim rejected by the Planning Inspectorate.
The defense from Manlow to the criminal charge of refusing to abide by the terms of a planning enforcement notice regarding the property, was that they were not in control of the home at the time, having sold their property portfolio to a social landlord, Omega Mears. At the Magistrates Court the only evidence of this was a letter in the defense bundle, and the District Judge did not see this as sufficient.
The defendants appealed to the Crown Court. They produced new evidence, an employee of Omega Housing Association who said that they were in control of the home at the relevant time. This got Simon Low and Manlow off the charge, but Wise Estates’ conviction remains and they are now subject to a proceeds of crime order.
The lawyer for the Low family and Wise Estates confirmed the position regarding the 9 Stonebridge Park case, but was not able to provide an on the record comment.
However, in a subsequent email complaining about my original reporting of the case, Pincus Mann, a director of Manlow Property Management said:
I understand for you it’s just a reported story, for me the story had the potential to ruin my businesses, but don’t path yourself on your shoulder yet, it actually didn’t, 👍.
I guess this means that Manlow is still in the business of cramming tiny flats into small homes and renting them out at extortionate rents to the homeless – which is a pity, because although Manlow and Mr Low may have got off this time, the case still established that the conversion of family homes into multiple tiny flats, a model called Lockdown, requires planning permission, and councils can refuse to grant permission for these developments if they choose. From Mr Mann’s response, it would seem that some councils are still not availing themselves of the powers they have to stop this practice.