In this decision relating to breaches of a planning injunction granted pursuant to s.187B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Court elected to commit Mr Stokes to prison for seven weeks suspended on condition that he restores the land to the position it was in at the time the injunction was granted.
The decision is of interest because the Court decided that to delay the restoration of the land until after a planning inspector has made a determination on the current planning appeal would be to ignore the force of the injunction and the importance of obeying court orders. The Court also refused to vary the injunction.
The Claimant Council had obtained an injunction to preserve the status quo pending determination of a planning application following the development of agricultural land for use as a gypsy and traveller site. The site had been split into around 50 plots but only two had been occupied by gypsies at the time the injunction was granted. One of the Defendants, Mr Stokes, continued to bring hardcore and other materials onto his plot in breach of the injunction.
HHJ Blair Q.C. (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) held at -:
"23. The breaches are multiple in number (7 breaches of depositing and spreading hardcore and concrete) and were successive cynical attempts to try to improve his position for the pending planning appeal. The extent of his encroachment is significant and flagrant. The Court will not countenance such wilful disobedience of its orders and permit him to ignore them with impunity. There is an important overarching public interest in ensuring that court orders are respected and obeyed.
24. No evidence was adduced to support counsel's contention that requiring the imminent restoration of the land to the pre-injunction position would be seriously detrimental to the environment. To delay the restoration of the land for months and months – until after a planning inspector has made a determination on the current planning appeal would be to ignore the force of the injunction and the importance of obeying court orders. It would serve to condone the 4th Defendant's actions and give the impression that he can manipulate events to serve his own ends with impunity.
25. Had Mr Stokes not made the apologies he did at the hearing, both from the witness box and through his counsel, I would have committed him to prison for 8 weeks (56 days). Because he did make concessions, admissions and apologise I am prepared to ameliorate that sanction by reducing it to a committal of 7 weeks (49 days) in custody and also to suspend it until 1st April 2019. It is suspended on condition that by midday on 7th March 2019 he removes all deposits of hardcore, concrete and other materials from Plots 6 & 7 Cufaude Lane, Bramley, Tadley, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG26 which have been placed there since 22nd December 2017 and are shown on the plan marked MFL13 appended to the first affidavit of Mark Fletcher and identified in the Key as Breach Areas 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5."
You can read the judgment here.
David Lintott acted for the Claimant Council. Cornerstone Barristers regularly acts for both local planning authorities and developers in a wide range of planning and public law matters. For more information please contact 020 7242 4986 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.