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Deliberate concealment of a breach of planning control by verbal responses to questions

David Lintott successfully appeared for Welwyn Hatfield BC in this application for a Planning Enforcement Order by Welwyn Hatfield BC at St Albans Magistrates Court on 15 August 2014. Richard Ground appeared for the Respondent. The Magistrates decided that a verbal response to questions could found the basis of a Planning Enforcement Order pursuant to section 171BA-C of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Section 171BC(1) provides that a Magistrate's Court may make such a planning enforcement order if:

"(a) the court is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the apparent breach, or any of the matters constituting the apparent breach, has (to an extent) been deliberately concealed by any person or persons, and

(b) the court considers it just to make the order having regard to all the circumstances."

The Magistrate's found that the Respondent had deliberately concealed the use of the barn as a residential dwelling by:
- saying in January 2010 that it was used for storage and a gym whilst choosing not to say that he had lived in it;
- saying that no-one was living in the barn in November 2013;
- giving the building the appearance of a barn rather than a dwelling house; and
- failing to register the barn and pay council tax there.

A Planning Enforcement Order was made and an order that the Respondent pays the Applicant's costs.