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Breach of injunction preventing works on woodland site sees landowner receive jail sentence

A landowner in Kent has been given a custodial term of eight months imprisonment, with two months immediate custody and six suspended for 18 months, for breaching an injunction against works on an ancient woodland site.

Following an application by Maidstone Borough Council’s Planning Enforcement Team in relation to the site on land west of Water Lane in Harrietsham, defendant Elvina Matthews was also ordered to pay a fine of £5,000, plus the council’s costs of £10,795.

Maidstone started legal proceedings in October 2021 when the Planning Enforcement Team received a complaint that a large number of trees protected by Tree Preservation Orders in the woodland were being destroyed.

The council said: “On visiting the site it became apparent that approximately a quarter of a hectare of protected trees had been uprooted and were in the process of being removed. In addition, a large quantity of hardcore had been imported to raise and level half of the site and two caravans had been placed on the land. A clear breach of planning control had occurred and irreparable harm had been deliberately caused to an area of significant ecological and landscape importance.”

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A Temporary Stop Notice was served on 6 October 2021. The council then applied to the High Court for an injunction order to prevent any further works on the land. An interim injunction was granted on 7 October and this was made final on 18 October. The injunction prohibited:

  • Any further caravans or portable structures being brought onto the land
  • Any further hardcore being brought onto the land
  • The carrying out of any further works in breach of planning control
  • The destruction of any trees with Tree Protection Orders

The council said the order was served on all parties with an interest in the land, including the defendant, and it was also prominently displayed on the land.

Maidstone said: “Disappointingly, despite being served the Injunction, works continued in breach of the requirements of the order. With a larger mobile chalet home being brought onto the land to replace one of the caravans, there was further clearance of the site with the use of plant machinery; further hardcore was brought onto the site; the site was raised and levelled; stables and fencing were erected.

“Due to the serious nature of the breaches of the injunction the council applied to commit Ms Matthews for contempt of court.”

At a hearing last month (3 March 2022) the defendant admitted disobeying the terms of the injunction.

“The Judge considered the breaches to be major and sustained and showing a contempt for the Order made by the Court,” Maidstone said.

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