ARUN District Council is being accused of ‘plundering the pension’ of a disabled grandfather-of-three for more than £10,000 after he purchased a former doctors’ surgery in Rustington.
John Costello had hoped he would be able to spend his retirement in peace and quiet when he bought the old surgery building in Ash Lane, a property which he aimed to convert back into a residential bungalow.
However, he claims Arun has ‘ambushed him’ into paying £10,345 extra on the £279,000 cost of the bungalow – as a contribution to affordable housing in the area.
The 64-year-old, who has worked in the building trade for more than 40 years and suffers from a degenerative spinal condition, is outraged by this.
He said: “I’m astonished by this. In all my years working in the building trade I have never heard of a council demanding this from a self-build application.
“After 49 years of working and paying my tax and national insurance, to let (Arun) plunder my pension pot for affordable housing is outrageous. It feels like I am being blackmailed into paying this.”
However, Arun District Council refute Mr Costello’s claims about ‘blackmail’ with a spokeswoman for the authority saying its policy for affordable housing could not be any clearer.
The council’s policy was introduced four years ago and is clearly stated on its website.
The policy outlines the contribution that needs to be made to the council depending on the scale of the planned development.
For developments of 15 or more homes, there needs to be a 30 per cent contribution to affordable housing.
While construction of just a single home would see a provision of 15 per cent being needed, so long as it was financially viable.
However, in Mr Costello’s case, Arun is asking him for a commuted sum which is agreed at a pre-application stage.
The Arun spokeswoman added: “It is unfortunate that at the time of purchasing this property, Mr Costello was not correctly advised by those around him regarding the council’s policies and the requirement to pay the financial contribution as part of the reversion. The council does not operate a ‘blackmail’ policy but a fair policy that is applied equally to all.”