Brent Council cashed in on illegally converted flats in Willesden

Town hall collected Council Tax from properties before taking owner to court


Brent Council received thousands of pounds in council tax payments from illegally converted flats before taking the owner to court, where he received a �1.4million fine, the Times can reveal.

The town hall had failed to check the legitimacy of the properties in Willesden Lane, Willesden, while accepting payments from its tenants in the last six years.

Salah Ali, from Wembley, who owned the property, was hit with the seven-figure fine, believed to be the highest in the country for a planning offence, at Norwich Crown Court last month.

Following the court case Chris Walker, assistant director of planning and major projects at Brent Council, said: “This landlord ignored planning rules designed to ensure that the quality of accommodation in the boroughs is maintained and that the environment for surrounding residents is protected.

“He ignored the council’s notices and as a result, he profited hugely from this sub-standard accommodation.”

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A number of residents had been complaining about rubbish and noise emanating from the property for a number of years.Cllr Carol Shaw, a Liberal Democrat councillor for the Brondesbury Park ward, complained about the illegal conversion to Brent Council a number of times before action was taken.

She is now calling for the council to launch an investigation.

She said: “If the council can collect council tax from properties deemed inhabitable and allegedly illegal for whatever reason, it makes that collection of tax illegal as well. Questions need to be asked regarding this issue to safeguard any over-zealous collection.”

A Brent Council spokesman told the Times that officers visited the site in 2005 and could see renovation work was underway, but that there was “no evidence of flat conversion.”

He added: “The planning service was not able to confirm that multiple flats had been created until November 2007 and enforcement action began at the earliest possible date.

“Council tax accounts for the individual flats were set up and backdated to December 2006 after information was received from the valuation office.

“Council tax is a charge on residents for local services and occupants must pay regardless of any planning issues.”

But an un-named source, who alerted us to the information, said: “How can one man face prison while those at the council escape for exploiting the same breach of planning for financial gain?”