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Appeal judges reject claim £59k confiscation for planning breaches was excessive

The Court of Appeal has rejected claims that a fine of £3,500 and a confiscation order of £59,000 for breach of planning laws were excessive.

Following enforcement action by West Lancashire Borough Council, Timothy Edwards, of Bannister House Farm, The Marshes Lane, Tarleton, was ordered in February 2016 at Preston Crown Court to pay the confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act. It was the first time West Lancashire had sought such an order.

He was also hit with the £3,500 fine and ordered to pay prosecution costs £6,000. Edwards' wife Susan was also fined £500.

West Lancashire took action against the defendants after officers found they were illegally storing a large number of caravans on two fields at their property.

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The council advised them that all of the caravans should be removed, but the couple failed to do this despite the enforcement notices, which were served on them, being upheld by an independent planning inspector.

The council said the confiscation order reflected the financial benefit gained by Edwards as a result of his continued breach of planning control.

Edwards launched an appeal challenging the fine and confiscation order.

However, the Court of Appeal last month upheld the sentence given to Edwards. He must now pay the full amount, plus interest on the confiscation order of £7,981.

A further hearing is due to take place at Liverpool Magistrates Court on 28 February 2018.

The council said that if Edwards hasn't paid he will be questioned as to how he intends to pay and the court could give directions on how he should do this.

A default prison sentence of 10 months was set at the time the order was made which can be invoked if the court thinks he is failing to pay.

Cllr Ian Moran, Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council, said: "The council welcomes this decision by the Court of Appeal as it shows the authority acted correctly in taking this legal action.

"This case sends out a strong warning and should deter other land owners and businesses from seeking to financially profit from breaches of planning control. Be warned! The council will take the strongest possible action against people who break the law.”

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