A businessman who was hit with a record £250,000 fine for his repeated defiance of planning laws in making unauthorised use of farmland for non-agricultural purposes has had his ‘too severe’ penalty more than halved by the Court of Appeal.
The man had laid hard core on the land and used it for office accommodation and caravans. Following a long-running dispute with planners, he ultimately admitted failing to comply with an enforcement notice and received the fine – believed to be the most an individual has ever been ordered to pay for planning breaches.
He had previously served months in jail for disobeying a civil injunction requiring him to clear the land of unauthorised development. However, he had subsequently been made bankrupt and argued that he had no means to pay the penalty.
The Court described him as ‘defiant and dishonest’. He had consistently failed to co-operate with the authorities; there was no evidence of remorse and he had sought to manipulate the system. The sentencing judge had rightly taken the view that it was a ‘very bad case’ and that only a heavy fine would bring home the gravity of the matter. Despite all those aggravating features, however, the Court ruled in all the circumstances that the fine was excessive and reduced it to £100,000.