A disabled former housing officer threatened with court action for repairing a set of steps leading to his back garden has labelled the legal moves ‘ludicrous’.
Jim O’ Rourke moved into his house at Pindar Rise, Thorplands Brook, 19 years ago with his wife, Sharon.
He had bought the property from Northampton Borough Council and assumed a 4ft high set of steps leading to his raised back garden gate were included in the sale.
As he is now almost entirely wheelchair bound due to a degenerated spine, in July last year he had the top step lowered, and the rest of the brick structure covered in concrete to make them safer.
But a year on he received a letter on behalf of the borough council stating that he had built an “unauthorised structure” on council land.
It went on to say: “We are satisfied you do not have any right or permission to put any structure on the land abutting you.”
The letter asks Mr O’ Rourke to remove the steps, which cost him £380 to have repaired, by August 8 or face possible court proceedings. But the 61-year-old former borough council employee, who attained a law degree in 2003, says the claims are farcical.
“Those steps have always been there.” He said. “You can clearly see the old brick underneath. We have only repaired them with a bit of concrete on the top.”
But Mr O’ Rourke said he will not be removing the offending items as they act as an emergency exit to his property.
“If they’re taken out there will just be a back gate 4ft high in the air that we can’t use.”
Mr O’Rourke, who was given the Queen’s award for voluntary services for his efforts fund-raising for the Thorplands Club 81 football team, says he has already enquired about taking the steps out. But builders told him they are effectively ‘holding up’ the back fence and if removed, would cause the structure to fall.
He is now resolved to fight the council in court.
“How could they have sold me the house and not the steps leading to it?” he said.
Jim O’Rourke said had he known the steps belonged to the council, he would have contacted it to get the works completed in the first place.
It is believed the offending steps were initially reported as an ‘unauthorised structure’.
After being contacted by the Chronicle & Echo this week the borough council has agreed to revisit Mr O’Rourke’s property.
A borough spokesperson said: “It is not clear who in the past was responsible for building the steps at the rear of Mr O’Rourke’s property, but we have contacted Mr O’Rourke and will be visiting him this week to help resolve the problem.”
Even though there is a dispute as to who built the steps, Mr O’ Rourke says he is determined to keep them. He said: “It’s my back gate and I am entitled to use it, surely?”