IT WAS first billed as a stable block and has survived numerous planning battles with Basildon Council, but now its owner has finally revealed his four-bedroom detached home is just that.

Tommy Saunders, 41, who owns the property off London Road, Wickford, claimed throughout legal battles with the council it was built to house four horses.

However, his planning agents now say it is a house and they hope to have it officially authorised as a home through a planning loophole which sometimes allows houses to remain if the local authority has failed to take action against the owner for four years.

Mr Saunders, from Oak Lane, Crays Hill, paid just £5,000 for the land, but similar authorised properties nearby fetch around £300,000 to £400,000, according to property website Zoopla.

A statement by his planning agent, Raymond Stemp, said: “Having been used for a limited time for keeping horses, the original intention, it has been renovated to provide a four-bedroom dwelling.”



Plush: Tommy Saunders admits the "stable block" is a home 

The council has tried a number of times to force its demolition, but Mr Saunders convinced two planning inspectors it was not a residence, after appealing enforcement orders.

The Echo can also reveal the council got the green light to demolish the property’s ornamental external walls, most of the drive and a fuel oil tank and oilfired boiler more than four years ago, but failed to take action.

A resident from Crays Hill, who was refused planning permission for an extension and who would not be named, said: “I can’t believe the council didn’t enforced demolition of the walls and boiler.

"If they had, perhaps no one would move in. You can’t even get an extension normally without the council coming down on you.”

Now Mr Saunders and his agent Mr Stemp are revealing all manner of developments that have taken place at the property as part of their case to have it authorised.

This includes a new kitchen and two bathrooms being added and even a tenant moving in during 2009.


Then and now: The building as it was in 2007 when Mr Saunders insisted it was for horses

During a 2008 planning appeal his then agent Russell Forde argued the “stables” was an essential facility for sport and recreation and having a bathroom and kitchen upstairs did not “change its nature”.

However, the latest statement from Mr Stemp said: “John Anderson, the occupier, while not paying rent, did carry out home improvements including installing a kitchen. In late 2009 Mr Anderson was clearly occupying the building as a residential property, using it for correspondence.”

Utility bills and documents, including a 2011 magistrates' court summons for Mr Anderson for an alleged driving offence, have been submitted as evidence.

A council spokesman said knocking down walls and the oil tank may not have stopped the use as a house.

He said: “It is obscured by an established hedgerow, two-metre high solid fence and locked gates.

After the appeal council officers were unable to justify gaining access because no further complaints were received.

“Enforcement of planning is discretionary. The council has not pursued action for minor requirements as this would not have dealt with residential use.

“The conversion of the ground floor into residential in 2009, as claimed, was not detected by officers or reported, and therefore no further investigation was pursued.”

The Echo tried to contact Mr Saunders through Mr Stemp and two addresses he used, but got no response.