Council chiefs have launched a legal probe into controversial plans to convert a block of former West End flats into HMO homes for nearly 200 students.
The Courier revealed in October McLaren Property, which purchased Peterson Hall student accommodation in Roseangle in July, hoped to convert the 82-bed block into housing for 191 students and had already been planning the project for months.
A building warrant for more than £2.4 million of changes at the property has now been granted by Dundee City Council and work appears to have commenced at the site, despite concerns over existing overcrowding in the area.
The permission covers standards for the design and construction of buildings but does not take into account the development of the local area, which is considered during planning applications. Typically both are require for significant work.
The Roseangle project is described as involving “minor internal demolitions, construction of partition walls, bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms upgrade, and provision of new services and new fittings”.
It is understood questions have been raised over whether the scale of the project, which includes a conversion of the south block from domestic to non-domestic use, can legally be carried out without full planning permission being granted.
Local residents reported “a lot of work” has already been ongoing at Peterson Hall in recent months and a source close to the project claimed areas of the ground have been dug up to install cabling for the new homes.
David Hagan, owner of nearby Roseangle House Nursery, confirmed he wrote to the council to raise concerns over the project but was told there is no provision for objections against an application for building warrant.
Mr Hagan owned Peterson Hall prior to its sale in July and said he also applied to change it to HMO but was rejected.
He claims he was told by Dundee City Council “in no uncertain terms” this was not possible “without a planning application and an HMO application, neither of which were likely to be approved”.
An official at the local authority’s planning department said: “I can confirm that there has been no planning application to date. However, the circumstances as to whether permission is required or not are not clear.
“We are aware of the situation and are currently working with our legal team to establish the position.”
Dundee City Council said it is “investigating the situation”.
McLaren Property states its address on the building warrant application as Optimus, an Isle of Man financial services firm.
Optimus was recently named among a number of secretive offshore tax regimes in the Panama Papers, a leak of files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca.
McLaren Property failed to respond to multiple approaches for comment.
3DReid, the Glasgow property listed as an agent on the building warrant, said it was “unable to discuss the project at present”.