OXFORD City Council was forced into a humiliating legal climbdown after bungling its prosecution of a developer for refusing to fix up a derelict property.

The council has fought a long battle with Martin Young over the state of his house in Old High Street, Headington, branded an “eyesore” by neighbours. It issued an enforcement notice in 2011.

He had 12 months to do the improvement work but last year the council’s patience snapped and it started a prosecution against Mr Young.

However, it has emerged that the council was almost two years too late to try to have him fined up to £1,000 for ignoring the enforcement notice.

Its six-month window to prosecute him closed in September 2012 – meaning the council has wasted £10,000 of taxpayers’ money, with Mr Young potentially landing it with a bill for another £6,224 for his costs, in a situation labelled “shambolic” by one angry neighbour.

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Old High Street resident and retired tax inspector Chris Kerr, 62, said: “It’s a shambolic waste of money.

“That’s the [equivalent of] council tax for five houses around here.

“What are their lawyers doing?

“One assumes that they [would have] had advice that they couldn’t do this. I guess the general air of incompetence in local government reigns supreme.”

Mr Young has owned the property since 1978 but moved out nearly a decade ago to take care of his mother.

Since 2006, the property has remained unoccupied and the landlord has made repeated applications to demolish the house and build a five-bedroom property in its place.

But after plans were rejected by the city council and the planning inspectorate in 2014 there was no workable solution in sight.

The council finally began its action last year against Mr Young for not acting on the March 2011 enforcement notice, seemingly not realising the cut-off period to launch a prosecution was in September 2012. Mr Young pointed this out in December and the council had to admit to District Judge Tim Pattinson he was right.

The case was formally dropped on Tuesday.

The council’s head of legal services Jeremy Thomas said: “Unfortunately, because we had been trying to work with Mr Young to secure planning permission for the redevelopment of his property, our prosecution was timed out.

“For that reason we asked the court to dismiss our charges against him so we didn’t waste the court’s time.”

Mr Young said: “This whole saga has been a waste of time and a distraction from actually getting some work done.

“If my time wasn’t consumed by looking up records and dealing with these planning issues maybe I could go and get some work done at the house.”

Old High Street resident Theresa Gray has lived in and around Old Headington since 1976.

The 75-year-old said: “I think it’s disgraceful. I think if anyone deserves to be taken to task it should be Martin Young.”

Mr Thomas added: “We are committed to resolving the issue and will look at all the options open to us including further legal action and carrying out the necessary safety improvement works ourselves.

“This has cost the council and our council tax payers a lot of money – money that could be better spent on front-line services.

“It’s disappointing Mr Young continues to avoid maintaining his property to a satisfactory standard creating safety issues and an eyesore for other local residents.”

City council spokesman Chofamba Sithole declined to comment when asked if the council would be apologising for the blunder.