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Landowners in High Court for planning breaches

Posted by on 29 May 2019 | Comments

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Two planning enforcement cases were taken to the High Court in London earlier this month after landowners failed to adhere to planning rules.

Two separate cases were heard at the High Court Queen’s Bench Division at the Royal Courts of Justice London on 7 May; one case relating to land at Great Glemham and another to land at Hinton.

Both cases were brought to the High Court by East Suffolk Council after two separate landowners failed to comply with injunctions relating to their respective properties.

The first case related to an injunction obtained by the Council in 2018 in relation to land at High Grove Wood, Great Glemham. The landowner, Ms Victoria Chappell, had been living on site in a mobile home with her husband Mr Stephen Law, despite the land having no lawful use other than for agricultural purposes.

The injunction required Ms Chappell and Mr Law to remove the mobile home and a portable toilet from the land by 1 March 2019. However, they claimed the access track was too muddy and therefore the mobile home could not be moved until July.

During a site visit, Council officers were of the view that as Mr Law had been driving on the track, it was possible to remove the mobile home and portable toilet by 1 March. Due to non-compliance with the injunction, the Council then made an application to commit both Mr Law and Ms Chappell to prison.

The committal application was heard at the High Court on 7 May. Both Ms Chappell and Mr Law were present and admitted non-compliance with the injunction. Sentencing was adjourned until 26 July, giving Ms Chappell and Mr Law further time to comply with the injunction and remove the mobile home and toilet from site.

The second hearing, also held on 7 May in the High Court Queen’s Bench Division (Royal Courts of Justice London), related to land known as Pine Lodge on Hazels Lane in Hinton. The land, which is within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is owned by Mr Bill Simpson who lives on the land with his wife Mrs Jill Simpson.

In 2010, planning permission was given for a workshop and store at Pine Lodge however this building has since been used for residential purposes, contravening conditions of the planning permission. A planning enforcement notice was issued in 2016, giving Mr Simpson three months to cease residential use of the building, as well as removing all items apart from those relating to agriculture.

Mr Simpson appealed the enforcement notice to the Secretary of State in June 2018 and the compliance period was suspended during this process. However the Secretary of State’s Planning Inspector dismissed the appeal and upheld the enforcement notice. A new date for compliance was set for 6 September 2018.

Mr Simpson failed to comply with the enforcement notice and an application for an injunction was made by the Council. The injunction requires that Mr and Mrs Simpson comply with the enforcement notice by 3 September 2019 and bring to an end this ongoing breach of planning control.

The Council also made an application to commit Mr Simpson to prison for non-compliance with two further injunctions relating to Pine Lodge which were obtained in 2018. The first injunction related to an enforcement notice served in 2014 and required Mr and Mrs Simpson, by 11 December 2018, to remove all hardstanding and the brick driveway from the land at Pine Lodge and level and re-seed or turf the land. However, Mr Simpson did not comply with this injunction until April 2019.

The second injunction was in relation to two enforcement notices served in 2010 which required Mr and Mrs Simpson, by 1 February 2019 to; remove hard-surfacing used to create vehicular access, a track and parking areas; remove fencing used to create the vehicular access; reinstate the land used for the vehicular access, track and parking areas to their prior condition and remove a 6x8m building and resulting materials from the land.

Following the High Court hearing on 7 May, Mr Simpson was given a one month prison sentence for late compliance with the first injunction and a two month prison sentence for non-compliance with the second injunction (to be serve concurrently), suspended for twelve months, provided that Mr Simpson complies with the second injunction by 3 September 2019 and does not breach any other injunctions to which he is or may become subject. Mr Simpson must now comply with the second injunction, as well as the injunction obtained on 7 May 2019 in relation to the workshop within the next four months otherwise he will go to prison. 

Cllr David Ritchie, East Suffolk Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Coastal Management said:

“We will always take the enforcement of planning rules seriously, as both these long-running cases show. In both cases, the landowners were given a number of opportunities to make amends however their inactions have resulted in serious consequences.”