Wokingham Borough Council’s success in defending the Green Belt from unauthorised development at Hare Hatch / Sheeplands, and its determination to continue that protection, remain unchanged despite a disappointing legal ruling last week.
On 17 January, the Court of Appeal decided to dismiss the Council’s appeal to overturn a Crown Court decision from June last year that prevented further legal action for the past breaches of enforcement on the owner of the site, Mr Rob Scott, and co-defendants.
But, the High Court injunction and enforcement notice in respect of Hare Hatch / Sheeplands remains in force and the unauthorised developments, which were removed last year, cannot legally be rebuilt.
Wokingham Borough Council executive member for planning Cllr Simon Weeks said: “The Council has been fighting for many years to successfully preserve the integrity of the Green Belt at Hare Hatch. That has not changed, and the Court of Appeal made it clear that the injunction protecting the land remains fully in place. While it is disappointing to have lost this case, the fact remains that there was unlawful development on Green Belt and we put a stop to it.”
In the ruling last week, the Court emphasised that the Council faced a high hurdle in seeking to overturn the Crown Court’s original decision. The Court’s decision turned on extensive discussions that took place between the Council and the owner of the site, Mr Scott, to seek to resolve the position, notwithstanding his breach of planning control.
The Court said it understood the Council’s frustration at Mr Scott’s persistent and longstanding attempts to flout planning control. However, the Court considered that once other remedies had been successful, including the imposition of a suspended sentence of imprisonment on Mr Scott, the council ought to have further reviewed whether there was public interest in continuing to prosecute Mr Scott and the other defendants.