COUNCIL planners are investigating allegations that the property where Dominic Cummings stayed during his lockdown trip to County Durham does not have the correct planning permission.

The Prime Minister’s special advisor stayed at North Lodge, near Durham, with his family, in early April when he and his wife began suffering from coronavirus symptoms.

Mr Cummings, 48, was criticised for driving 250 miles to the farm with his wife, Mary Wakefield, and their four-year-old son, instead of staying in London.

Amid questions over whether he had broken lockdown regulations for childcare purposes, he told journalists the "cottage" he stayed in was "sort of concrete blocks".

It is understood his father bought the farm, on the A167 Darlington Road, on the outskirts of Durham, in 1999.

The Northern Echo: North Lodge, on the A167 Darlington RoadNorth Lodge, on the A167 Darlington Road

Two years later, permission for the erection of a pitched roof structure over an existing swimming pool was granted.

Other than tree-felling, this is the only planning application related to the address on Durham County Council’s online planning portal.

A spokesperson for Durham County Council confirmed it is investigating after receiving several complaints.

In a statement the authority said: “We have received a number of complaints and are currently looking into the matter.”

One of the complaints relates to an alleged "unauthorised material change of use of building to residential occupation and associated alterations", The Northern Echo understands.

A response to one of the complainants from a senior enforcement officer at Durham County Council says: “I am the case officer and will be investigating your concerns.

“The investigation will seek to establish whether there has been a breach of planning control.

“If there has not been a breach of planning control you will be informed at the earliest opportunity that no further action will be taken and the case file closed. If a breach of planning control is identified, further investigation will be required, and you will be updated at relevant times.

“You should be aware that some enforcement cases may take some time to resolve and, furthermore, the current restrictions imposed as a result of coronavirus may affect the speed of our investigation and, we would ask for your patience at this time.”

Mr Cummings had previously moved to the farm in 2002 when he left his job as director of strategy for the Conservative Party.

The row about Mr Cummings’ trip to County Durham dominated the news agenda last week.

Durham Constabulary concluded the journey to Durham did not mean he had committed an offence, however the force did say a trip to Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday to check he was well enough to drive back to London might have breached lockdown legislation.

The Northern Echo: Dominic Cummings visited Barnard Castle during his visit Dominic Cummings visited Barnard Castle during his visit 

Labour’s Durham City MP Mary Foy has also written to Durham County Council to ask the authority to look into the planning matter, and inquire if council tax should be paid.

The Northern Echo: Durham City MP Mary FoyDurham City MP Mary Foy

She said: “We had quite a number of emails about it. If they don’t have planning permission, then they asked for retrospective planning permission, they could be asked to pull the house down, but I do not know how strict the council are on that type of thing.”

Downing Street has been contacted for a comment by The Northern Echo.