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Trout Farmer ‘Deliberately Concealed’ Planning Breach

In a case which raised planning issues of general importance, the owner of a trout farm – who for years concealed from his local council that he had converted the first floor of a barn to provide a home for his son – has failed to overturn an enforcement notice which required him to return the building to solely agricultural use.

The farmer had established that his son had been living in the barn for more than four years – the time limit for enforcement laid down by Ssection 171B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 – prior to service of the notice.

However, a planning inspector rejected his plea that the council had left it too late to take action against him on the basis that the time limit did not apply where a breach of planning control had been deliberately concealed.

In dismissing his challenge to that decision, the High Court rejected arguments that changes introduced by the Localism Act 2011 – parts of which specifically dealt with the problem of deliberate concealment – had obliged the council to seek a planning enforcement order against him from a magistrates’ court.

The farmer was ordered to pay £13,000 in legal costs. However, in recognition of the importance and novelty of the issue of statutory interpretation raised, he was granted permission to challenge the decision before the Court of Appeal.