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Barnet Borough Council to investigate fraudulent responses in favour of planning application in Oakleigh Road North
An investigation is underway after fraudulent emails were submitted to the council in favour of a planning application at a “busy” junction.
Lianne Kolirin and her husband Simon Albert alerted Barnet Borough Council that their identities had been used in order to submit emails in favour of plans for nine flats in Oakleigh Road North, Whetstone.
The applicant, Dr Aristophanef Christodoulou, had applied to demolish an existing four-storey building to develop the new units as well as a ground floor commercial unit, refuse facilities, a cycle store and basement parking for 14 cars.
But Ms Kolirin and her husband, who live in Manor Drive – a 15-minute walk from the proposed site - had not heard about the plans until they both received a reply from the council’s planning department thanking them for their comments on the application.
Speaking to the Times Series, the mother-of-three said: “At first I thought my husband had replied on my behalf, and he assumed I had replied for him. But when I saw the actual comment I realised it was a very positive response and not something we would have sent.”
The response, which the council has confirmed was from Ms Kolirin’s email address, said: “As a local resident and mother I am pleased to see that there is one point of vehicular access, and it's good that the existing one is being utilised.
“The highway safety would be my main qualm. It's good to see that the traffic generation has been hidden underground both visually and noise/disturbance wise as it won't impact on our existing street arrangements. Everything else looks fine.”
Ms Kolirin said: “I’m really angry. The plans are on a busy junction and are certainly not something I would have approved of.
“I find it really strange whoever sent the comment knew my address, email address and that I’m a mother – how does this person know about my children? They even knew my husband’s work address. It’s very odd and creepy.”
Ms Kolirin contacted the council and was told they had received an “unusually high” number of positive responses for the application.
A total of 85 responses were submitted, 57 of which were positive – although it is not yet known how many were fraudulent.
The council has said it is investigating and added that the plans are being refused permission because officers believe they would have a “detrimental impact” on the area.
A spokeswoman for the council said: “We are investigating the unusually high number of positive comments received on this planning application.
“The proposed scheme is considered unacceptable on a number of grounds, including its detrimental impact on the appearance of the local area and the amenities of neighbouring residential occupiers.
“As such, the planning application is being refused under delegated powers.”
Dr Christodoulou told the Times Series he was unaware of the fraudulent emails and believes the plans have been turned down unjustly.
He said: “This is the first I have heard about the emails, but I think if the council investigates the positive responses, they should also look at the objections.
“I think the application would be a good thing for the area. What was there before was an unused carpet warehouse that ceased trading in 2009, and as a result it was empty and full of pigeons and rats, and it was dangerous.
“What we are proposing is to build flats for the 20th Century, with a very expensive basement to accommodate all the cars. Everybody keeps saying there’s a shortage of houses but on the other hand the council doesn’t seem to want to give permission to build flats.
"It's also not near a busy junction - it's about 100 yards from the traffic lights."
Dr Christodoulou is deciding whether to appeal the council’s rejection of the plans, or to resubmit the application after considering residents’ objections.
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