A MAN has been convicted of ignoring council orders to demolish a cottage he built without permission.

But leading councillors from the authority that prosecuted him say they will not force him to knock it down.

Zippy Moonflower denied breaking a planning order over Potters Cottage, in Harwich Road, Wix.

But he was yesterday fined £500, plus £250 costs, after being convicted.

However, Peter Halliday, Tendring Council’s deputy leader and councillor responsible for finance, said the case against Moonflower was built on technicalities and should never have reached court.

He added: “Neither me, nor council leader Neil Stock, are in the business of pulling down people’s homes. Both of us will be looking at positive ways forward to ensure Mr Moonflower does not end up without a house.

“We will be doing everything we can to ensure it remains standing.

“I fully understand the court’s position and the enforcement notice is factually correct. But morally, has the man done anything wrong?

“We don’t think so. He has been caught out by a technicality. It has gone on for 11 years and that’s unacceptable.

“We possibly should have stopped him while he was building it. Are we really going to knock his house down and make him part of the housing issue? No.”

Chelmsford Crown Court heard Moonflower had submitted four planning applications to develop the site since buying it for £27,000 in 2000, but each was refused. A number of appeals were thrown out, including one to the Government’s planning inspectorate. He was given until March 1 last year to demolish the home, but failed and the council decided to prosecute. He had started rebuilding a 200-year-old, single-storey cottage on the site in 2007, and spent an estimated £100,000.

Alison Lambert, prosecuting, said: “For nearly two years he had not complied with the enforcement notice – he had not taken any steps to demolish the building.”

Moonflower denied the charge and said he was not able to demolish the house because he was waiting for the outcome of another planning application. He also said he did not have the money to clear the site and to do so would have breached the terms of his mortgage on the property.