BOLTON businessman Oliver Wotherspoon — who won national fame for creating a hobbit hole in his garden — had more than £16,500 taken from his bank account by British Gas who claimed it was for one month’s supply of energy.

The 32-year-old even had to enlist a solicitor to get his money back as his bill is usually about £150.

British Gas has now returned the money and said it will be writing to Mr Wotherspoon, the owner of Cool Canvas, to apologise.

Mr Wotherspoon returned from a summer break on August 4 to find that £16,645.57 had been wrongly debited from his company’s account.

Despite contacting British Gas several times the money, which had been taken out on July 16, was not refunded and Mr Wotherspoon felt he had no option but to contact a solicitor who approached the energy firm on his behalf.

The money, which was taken for a bill at Mr Wortherspoon’s Cool Canvas business in Shepherd Cross Street, was refunded on August 13.

Mr Wotherspoon said: “I can’t believe British Gas didn’t think it was odd and did not contact me.

“This was a large amount of money they took from the business at what is our busiest time.”

He added: “It has been so stressful dealing with this, I just feel like the ‘big boys’ are pushing round the small fry.”

Mr Wotherspoon, whose company creates natural play areas, has since cancelled his direct debit and will pay “cash” after receiving the bill.

He added: “I have had not heard from British Gas since they refunded the money, no apology.”

British Gas said it did apologise to Mr Wotherspoon initially, but added it should have contacted Mr Wotherspoon’s bank when the issue was raised on August 4.

Catrin Millar of British Gas, said: “I am very sorry that we sent a large bill to Mr Wotherspoon. Unfortunately we applied an incorrect meter reading to his account which meant he received a large bill.

“We should have provided a refund at the time including any associated costs. We will contact Mr Wotherspoon to apologise for distress and inconvenience caused.”

British Gas said it will be speaking to Mr Wotherspoon’s solicitor and offering a gesture of goodwill to Mr Wotherspoon for the distress and inconvenience caused.