One of the highest courts in the land has upheld action taken by West Lancashire Borough Council against a resident over breaches of planning laws.
In February 2016 Timothy Edwards, of Bannister House Farm, The Marshes Lane, Tarleton, was ordered to pay £59,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act at Preston Crown Court. He was also fined £3,500 and ordered to pay prosecution costs £6,000 for failing to comply with planning enforcement notices. This was the first criminal confiscation order under the proceeds of Crime Act obtained by the Council. Mr Edwards' wife Susan was also fined £500.
Action was taken by the Council against Mr Edwards and his wife Susan after officers found they were illegally storing a large number of caravans on two fields at their property. The Council advised them that all of the caravans should be removed, but the couple failed to do this despite the enforcement notices, which were served on them, being upheld by an independent planning inspector. The Proceeds of Crime Order of £59,000 reflected the financial benefit gained by Mr Edwards as a result of his continued breach of planning control.
Mr Edwards launched an appeal challenging the fine and confiscation order, claiming both were excessive. But on 23 January 2018 the Court of Appeal in London upheld the sentence given to Mr Edwards. He must now pay the full amount, plus interest on the Proceeds of Crime Act Order of £7,981.
A further hearing is now due to take place at Liverpool Magistrates Court on 28 February 2018. If Mr Edwards hasn't paid he will be questioned as to how he intends to pay and the court could give directions on how he should do this. A default prison sentence of 10 months was set at the time the order was made which can invoked if the court thinks he is failing to pay.
Councillor Ian Moran, Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council, said: "The Council welcomes this decision by the Court of Appeal as it shows the authority acted correctly in taking this legal action.
"This case sends out a strong warning and should deter other land owners and businesses from seeking to financially profit from breaches of planning control. Be warned! The Council will take the strongest possible action against people who break the law.”
For more information on planning enforcement please visit planning.