A man who dismantled walls and removed timbers from a Grade II listed 18th century farmhouse, in breach of planning permission and listed building consent, has been fined £6,015 and will be required to pay £24,401 in costs to the local authority (which include over £6,000 investigation costs).
The local authority, Aylesbury Vale District Council, secured the Defendant's guilty plea after a day of negotiation at court, and agreed a factual basis of plea. A dispute then arose and legal argument was heard on the ability of the local authority as prosecutor to adduce factual material at the sentencing hearing which was not directly referred to in the factual basis of plea, but formed part of the background to the offence and which did not contradict any of the agreed facts. Deputy District Judge Williams, sitting at Milton Keynes Magistrates' Court, held that the local authority was entitled to adduce and rely on such facts, as long as sentencing took place on the material in the agreed factual basis of plea.
At the adjourned sentencing hearing, the Defendant's counsel argued for a conditional discharge or a low fine, on the basis that the Defendant had relied on professional advice from structural engineers, and had erroneously thought he was permitted to carry out the work. The local authority submitted that there was a significant degree of culpability on the part of the Defendant, as he had been told throughout by the historic buildings officers what was required of him and that the work recommended by his structural engineers could not be carried out without further planning permission and listed building consent.
The Deputy District Judge accepted the local authority's submissions and held that there was significant culpability on the part of the Defendant. He also held that there had been irreversible damage caused to the farmhouse. In relation to costs, the Judge held that the local authority was required to fulfil its statutory duty, and had done so in this case, and was therefore entitled to its costs, which he held were proportionate.
Estelle Dehon appeared for Aylesbury Vale District Council