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LORDS FIND FOR MAIDSTONE IN PLANNING CONSENT CASE

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Maidstone BC today triumphed in the final round of its legal battle to force a local farmer to tear down a partiall...
Maidstone BC today triumphed in the final round of its legal battle to force a local farmer to tear down a partially completed home that it says he put up without planning consent.

The House of Lords ruled that the council was right after all to take

enforcement action against smallholder Alan Sage, after the High Court and

Court of Appeal both found in favour of him.

Though successful in its battle, however, the council will still have to pay out massive legal costs for its victory as agreement had been reached beforehand that, whatever the outcome of today's appeal, Mr Sage would not have to foot the bill for costs.

The council took enforcement action against Sage over the development at his

farm in Otham, on which he began growing grass, fruit and cob nuts.

However, in October 2000, the High Court ruled that the council was not

entitled to take enforcement action against him, and that decision was

backed by the Court of Appeal in June 2002.

Now though, five Law Lords have unanimously ruled in favour of the council

and allowed its appeal against the lower court rulings. The result leaves

Sage facing the prospect of prosecution if he does not comply with the

enforcement notice that requires him to level the building to the ground.

The case centres on the building, described as a 'partially erected dwelling house' made of demolition salvage materials, put up by Mr Sage on the site of a chicken hatchery.

In March 1999, Maidstone BC issued an enforcement notice

against Mr Sage, requiring him to level the building to the ground. An

appeal by the farmer to an environment department planning inspector was

later dismissed.

But, in the High Court in October 2000, Mr Justice Ouseley overturned the

inspector's decision and ordered a reconsideration of Mr Sage's case.

Last June, dismissing the council's appeal against that decision, Lord

Justice Keene said that, as a matter of law, operations not amounting to

development were not to be taken into account in establishing whether a

building was substantially completed.

Today though, Lord Hobhouse said that the planning inspector's decision

backing the enforcement notice had, in fact, been correct, as the notice had not been served later than four years after the substantial completion of the building works.

Indeed, he said, the works had still not been substantially completed at the date of the notice.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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