Published: Tuesday, 10th December 2019
The owners of a notorious illegal hostel in Swanley, The Convent of Mercy, have been brought to justice for failing to comply with two Planning Enforcement Notices.
In a four day trial beginning on 2 December 2019, Woolwich Crown Court fined the land owners Mr Bhupinderjeet Kullar and Mrs Narinder Kullar £4,000 combined together with a further £10,000 in costs.
Mr and Mrs Kullar were issued with two Planning Enforcement Notices by Sevenoaks District Council, on 14 December 2016 requiring them to cease use of The Convent of Mercy as a hostel. The second Notice required the removal of a wooden shed that had been put up without permission. The Notices were not complied with and the building continued to be used as a hostel until 11 March 2018 when the Council obtained a closure order from Sevenoaks Magistrates’ following repeated anti-social behaviour.
In August of this year, Mr Mustafa Kemal Mustafa, who ran the hostel, was also fined £15,000 for failing to comply with the Planning Enforcement Notice to stop the use as a hostel.
Alison Salter, the Council’s Planning Team Manager says: “Mr and Mrs Kullar did not comply with our Planning Enforcement Notices for a number of years. Only by taking action in the Courts was it possible to close this unlawful hostel.
“The building was not fit to be a hostel and there were numerous reports of anti-social behaviour associated with its tenants. The safety of our residents is our top priority and thanks to colleagues across the Council and partnership working with Kent Police, the Fire Service and the HSE, we were able bring Mr and Mrs Kullar to justice.
“The £14,000 fine sends a clear message that we will not tolerate people who ride roughshod over the law.”
This former convent site was subject to ongoing anti-social behaviour and safety concerns dating back to 2014.
Kent Police attended the site on a number of occasions to follow up on reports of anti-social behaviour and crime, on one occasion seizing a stolen vehicle.
The Council issued a Community Protection Warning and Community Protection Notice in January and October 2016 following anti-social behaviour and litter.
In April 2014, and again in January 2016, the Council served abatement notices for bonfire and noise nuisances.
The Council issued four informal warnings to clear up and repair the building between 2015 and 2016 and two further informal building control warnings following unauthorised building works.
Two Planning Enforcement Notices were issued in 2016 following unauthorised building works that required planning permission.
Following fire safety concerns, Kent Fire & Rescue Service issued an Improvement Notice in March 2016 and a Prohibition Notice in March 2017.
The Environment Agency issued a Stop Notice in June 2017 as there were concerns the site was being used as car repair business without permission.
The Health and Safety Executive served five safety notices following concerns about the safety of the electrical supply and other safety issues.