A property company will face enforcement action after illegally converting a house into seven flats and deceiving council officials of the breach, a court has ruled.

The court heard that Plankton Ltd deceived Barnet planning enforcement officers in January 2011 by temporarily converting the property in Clifton Gardens, Golders Green back into a six bedroom home during an inspection, before applying to the council for a certificate of lawfulness in May 2016 for its conversion to seven flats.

The enforcement team was made aware of the seven flat conversion in late 2010 but it appeared, on inspection, that the property was being let as a single home.

The company claimed the house only began being used as self-contained flats a day after the planning officer carried out the inspection, however the council believed this took place earlier and officers were deliberately misled, the court heard.

Plankton's application for the certificate of lawfulness was on the grounds that the property had received no complaints and the conversion was immune to intervention due it taking place more than four years' ago, which is the statutory limit of time for enforcement action to take place.

Deputy District Judge Evans said in her ruling that the "breach in this case was for the purpose of commercial profit" and the company‘s actions appear to have been with a view to "circumventing the intent of the legislation regulating this area".

Barnet Council was granted a planning enforcement order and £15,000 in costs, and will now begin a formal enforcement process.

Cllr Melvin Cohen, chairman of the planning committee, said: "Cases such as these are rare and I am very pleased that the court, having considered the evidence, agreed that planning officers were deliberately deceived in what was a blatant attempt to sidestep the law.

"Planning regulations are there for a reason and this case sends a very clear message to anyone else who may be considering trying to exploit the system."

The hearing took place over two days at Willesden Magistrates' Court.