Cheshire East Council has successfully obtained a High Court injunction against a landowner and his wife for unauthorised development in a rural community.
The site, known as Six Acres, on Wirswall Road, Wirswall, near Whitchurch, has been the subject of planning enforcement over a number of years. In 2014, the council issued an enforcement notice in relation to the erection of an unauthorised building on the land.
A subsequent appeal was dismissed and in 2017 the landowner was convicted at Chester Crown Court for failing to comply with the requirements of the enforcement notice, which included the demolition of the unauthorised building.
Despite the outstanding enforcement notice and conviction, the landowner continued to carry out further unauthorised development on the land. A further enforcement notice was served and subsequently ignored.
Due to the extent and scale of the additional unauthorised development in the open countryside and the apparent total disregard by the landowner for planning law, the council felt that it had no other option but to take further action. The council applied for a High Court injunction to secure the removal of the existing unauthorised developments and prevent any further unauthorised development.
The injunction was granted, with immediate effect, by his Honour Judge Bird at the High Court in Manchester at a hearing on 3 October 2022.
The landowner and his wife now have until 3 May 2023 to remove three buildings, a viewing platform and areas of hardstanding constructed at the site and until 3 August 2023 to restore the land to the condition it was in before unauthorised development. They were ordered to pay the council's costs of £18,597 within 21 days of the court hearing.
In handing down the judgment, Judge Bird concluded that the parties had 'thumbed their noses' at the law and reprimanded them for wasting council resources and money during times when people are struggling financially. He recognised that the council had acted professionally in the face of abuse from the landowner and gave especial recognition to the professionalism of the planning officers involved.
Failure to comply with the terms of the injunction could result in the matter being taken back to court, with the defendants facing a fine, removal of goods or a custodial sentence.
This is a welcome outcome following years of extensive work by officers of the council. It shows that the courts will not support breaches of planning law.
Councillor Mick Warren, chair of Cheshire East Council's environment and communities committee, said: "This result shows that the council will take appropriate enforcement action, including making an application for a court injunction where it is merited. It is also an example of the huge resource which is required to successfully bring a matter to court.
"Officers from the planning enforcement and legal team have clearly put in a great deal of time and dedication in relation to this matter and should be commended for all of their efforts to help protect our precious landscape and local communities."
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