Enforcing planning

August 31, 2011

Many of us have been shocked to learn that it has taken 8 years to enforce planning law at Dale Farm in Essex. It may be easy to understand why good-hearted clergy and actresses sympathise with those evicted from an illegal site on the basis that they have lived there so long, but many ask the question how the legal procedures can be so hopelessly longwinded that compassionate circumstances have time to arise. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Last night I attended a ‘standing room only’ meeting at Hertingfordbury School in Birch Green. A Green Belt site in the village has been concreted over and three caravans stationed without any planning permission. Indeed this land is so precious that two previous applications to build there have failed. The Council obtained an injunction on Saturday against the developer and legal proceedings for contempt of court may follow, but last night’s meeting was told that there is no real fast track eviction process, even though the injunction forbids development or residence on site. So, if the order is broken, the penalty is a fine or prison or asset confiscation.

I am going to take this up in parliament. In rural areas particularly, planning enforcement is important to safeguard the local environment and we need a fast effective remedy against those who ignore the law. It is also worth noting that planning permissions are given to caravan dwellers in appropriate circumstances, so it is right to encourage this to happen. It is far better to make an application in advance than to move onto a site without permission and later be moved on.

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