Byline: ANDREW SPARROW
LORD Irvine was forced into an embarrassing climbdown yesterday as his passion for refurbishment landed him with another PR problem.
The Lord Chancellor had to admit that he had carried out building work to his holiday home in Scotland without getting planning permission.
And more than a week after officials from Argyll and Bute Council first wrote to him about his over-sight, he finally got around to answering their inquiries.
Yesterday afternoon he arranged for a building inspector to visit his [pounds sterling]300,000 retreat. On Monday, after considering the inspector's report, officials will decide if he broke the regulations.
Last night, Lord Irvine's many critics at Westminster were having a field day at the thought of the most powerful lawyer in the land answering to the bureaucrats from Argyll and Bute.
In a statement issued by the Lord Chancellor's Department, Lord Irvine admitted that he could not remember whether it was in 1994 or in 1995 that the work was carried out at the six-bedroom mansion in Argyll. Two stables at the rear, used as a games area, were given a new roof. A lavatory and a hand basin were installed and the stables were 'internally decorated', although they were still used for games rather than accommodation.
His office were saying nothing about the cost, but it can be certain that it was nowhere near the [pounds sterling]650,000 being spent on his House of Lords appartments.
In fact, the work was so trivial that Lord Irvine did not bother to apply for a building warrant, the Scottish equivalent of planning permission, even though such warrants are required for some of the most basic alterations.
Earlier this year someone wrote an anonymous letter to the council about the work. Argyll and Bute sent an official to inspect it on March 18.
The Irvines, who spend no more than 12 weeks a year there, were away, so the council wrote to the Lord Chancellor the next day asking if he could arrange to let someone in. …