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  5. 23 June 2005
  6. Enforcement cases have mixed fortunes in court

Enforcement cases have mixed fortunes in court

The Appeal Court has ruled that a High Court judge was wrong to disallow an appeal against an enforcement order enmeshed in procedural errors.

In the judgement, involving a site in an area served by Wycombe District Council, the judges criticised the planning inspector who held the original public inquiry.

The case involved enforcement notices served in respect of works carried out to facilitate vehicular access to and parking at the house.

The day after the notices were served the council withdrew one of them and issued another to similar effect.

The appellant appealed in good time but mistakenly put the date of the original notice and appended that notice instead of the replacement.

The planning inspector who took the subsequent appeal inquiry was originally unaware of the fact that one enforcement notice was withdrawn. But once this was realised the appeal was rejected as being invalid.

The three appeal court judges ruled that the judge had been wrong to decide the case solely upon the interpretation of the appeal notice, without having regard to the facts and circumstances surrounding its service.

The judges said that it was clear the decision of the Inspectorate had been made in error. The judges insisted that it was important not to attach too much significance to procedural requirements where that would lead to "grave injustice".

In a related development, but a wholly separate case, a High Court judge has rejected an appeal against an enforcement notice where the appellant claimed immunity on the grounds the development, in this case a car-repair workshop, had continued over a period of 10 years.

The judge was unimpressed by the appellants’ evidence and concluded that he had not discharged the burden of showing that a car-repair business had existed at the site for 10 years.

Roger Milne

23rd June 2005