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Tory councillor Tony Searles gets permission for converted garage - years later

A senior Conservative politician has successfully had a planning application approved after eight years of renting out a property without permission.

Cllr Tony Searles, finance chief at Sevenoaks council and a “private planning consultant”, has earned at least £60,000 in rent for a garage in his back garden that he converted into a rented home – despite not having council planning permission.

On Thursday, the planning committee approved his application for a lawful development certificate, despite locals saying his flouting planning laws set a poor example.

Residents of Egerton Avenue complained about parking problems
Residents of Egerton Avenue complained about parking problems

The member for Swanley Christchurch and Swanley Village ward is also on Swanley Town Council, where he is an active member of the development control committee, as well as being vice-chairman of finance and chairman of estates and facilities.

In a declaration of interests made in May 2015, Cllr Searles of Egerton Avenue, Hextable, names himself as a private planning consultant and lists five properties he has the right to occupy or receive an income from.

When asked about his successful application, he declined to comment.

Since March 2008 he had been renting out the two-storey building, charging upwards of £600 per month.

Cllr Tony Searles' home in Egerton Avenue
Cllr Tony Searles' home in Egerton Avenue

Locals complained to the council on the grounds that cars belonging to the tenants at the property had frequently been parked along the narrow road, blocking people in.

Swanley resident Darren Russell said: “It is absolutely outrageous that a district councillor who has responsibility for planning can do this, and a cabinet member as well.

“He has broken planning law as he knew he couldn’t get permission if he went through the planning process.

“How is it appropriate for a cabinet member, who has hid this matter for so long, to be allowed to go ahead with it due to a technicality?”

Mr Russell added: “One rule for him, and one rule for everyone else.”

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