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Council cashes in on covenant costs
OXFORD City Council has been criticised for attempting to charge residents more than £125,000 for removing restrictions from their homes.
Many homes around Oxford have covenants on them which prevent the buildings from being altered or expanded.
But the city council accepts payment to release residents from these restrictions and over the past five years it has made more than £56,000 doing so.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show the city council released 11 covenants across Oxford between 2007 and 2012.
They show that city council frequently asked for large sums of money which were then negotiated down to much smaller ones.
In one case, a Rose Hill resident was told by council officers they would need to pay £10,000 to be able to make alterations to their property – but this was then negotiated down to £1,000. But in another case in Marston, the council only asked for £1,000 to release an identical restriction - and this was negotiated down to £600.
Chris Turner was told by the city council he would have to pay £5,000 to be released from a covenant on a garage he owns in Denmark Street.
The Folly Bridge resident had already been given planning permission to knock down a garage and build a three storey building with a flat and maisonette.
He said: “There was no logic to the council’s demand. What was I paying for?
“Paying for the costs of removing the covenant is fair enough but I am not causing any damage to the council and it is not losing any land.
“The council wouldn’t remove the covenant, it simply allowed me to implement the planning permission. When I suggested we could remove the covenant completely they started talking in terms of £10,000 or £15,000.
“The council just holds you to ransom.”
City council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “There is a new policy now for dealing with covenants in the city. The previous amounts were achieved through a negotiation process between us and the applicant.” The new policy says the amounts should now be ‘reasonable’.
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