An enforcement case concerning the illegal siting and residential occupancy of a static caravan on land off the A3072 outside Holsworthy was concluded at Exeter Crown Court last week. The case involved land previously known as “The Retreat” but renamed more recently as “Hazelnut Farm” and owned by a Mr Lines, which he purchased back in 2014. Shortly after his purchase Mr Lines moved various caravans onto the site which he occupied in full-time residency with his partner.
A planning application in 2015 sought to gain permission for this but was refused by Planners. Enforcement action was begun and the defendants lost an appeal against this in a decision issued by the planning inspectorate in 2016. The decision gave Mr Lines 12 months to vacate the site and stop using it for residential purposes. The defendant, however, continued to live on the site ignoring these decisions.
At his appearance at Exeter Crown Court, Mr Lines pleaded guilty to being in breach of a planning enforcement notice. The presiding judge noted that Mr Lines was of high culpability and that there was nothing special about him or his circumstances that prevented him from requiring planning permission. He stated that he had saved himself costs which normal people have to endure and had subjected his neighbours to having to live next to unsightly caravans. Mr Lines was fined £6,000, reduced to £4,000 for the early guilty plea, and the Council were awarded £5,175 in costs and a victims surcharge of £400 was imposed which brought the total to £9,575. Mr Lines now has two months to pay the fine or risk a custodial sentence.
Councillor Pete Watson – Lead Member for Planning said: “The legal process for pursuing these types of cases can sometimes be long and complex; however, we have demonstrated that both Councillors and officers are determined in our efforts to protect the rural landscape. This case sends a clear message that failure to comply with planning legislation and subsequent enforcement notices can lead to hefty fines being imposed.”