In a stern warning that breaches of planning control can lead to jail in extreme cases, a ‘wily operator’ who repeatedly flouted court orders requiring him to clear farmland of inappropriate development has been sent to prison for nine months by the High Court.
The businessman had been locked in a four-year planning dispute with Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council over his use of the agricultural land which had in the past resulted in him being fined £250,000 by magistrates. He had nevertheless failed to clear an unauthorised caravan, a large portable office, hard core standings, sheds, hen coops and dog kennels from the site.
Council lawyers argued that he was ‘cocking a snook’ at the Court by his repeated failure to obey orders requiring clearance of the land. He had been given a number of warnings and opportunities to comply and his ‘flagrant’ breaches amounted to a grave contempt of court, deserving of stiff punishment.
The businessman claimed that his recent efforts to achieve compliance had been frustrated by factors beyond his control. However, the Court found that he was ‘a wily operator who chooses to pursue courses that suit him rather than respect the law’. Pointing to the ‘long history of flagrant breaches of planning law’, the Court found that his contempt of court was ‘blatant’ and ruled that anything other than a substantial jail term would ‘undermine the authority of the law’.