After successful legal action taken by Rochdale Borough Council a demolition contractor has narrowly escaped a custodial sentence for persistent breaches of planning control in sites across the borough.
In March 2013, Mr Peter George Cordwell, 41, of Silvester House, Roe, Acre Tanner on Bradshaw Street, Heywood, was subject to a boroughwide planning injunction preventing any further development requiring planning permission on any site within the borough without planning permission.
During a hearing in February 2014, Rochdale Borough Council, represented by Counsel John Hunter, had proved further planning breaches of the Court Order took place on Collop Gate Farm and New Gap Farm, Heywood, resulting in Rochdale Borough Council applying to the Court for contempt of the original decision. These breaches included non-compliance with the terms of planning permissions, or Enforcement Notices issued by the Council and appeal decisions of the Planning Inspectorate.
The Council did contend that other breaches had occurred at The Klondike, Chichester Street, Rochdale but His Honour Judge Gore QC did not accept these arguments.
In a lengthy judgement on March 14 at Manchester County Court’s Civil Justice Centre, Judge Gore found Mr Cordwell guilty on three counts for breaching the injunction, including the construction of new buildings on the above sites. He concluded three of the allegations of breach were proven namely:
- The construction of a barn at Collop Gate Farm;
- Deposit and storage of materials at that site;
- The construction of a new building at New Gap Farm, which was admitted by Mr Cordwell.
The judge rejected as grounds of mitigation the submissions of Mr Cordwell’s barrister, Counsel Robin Green, who said the injunction should not have been granted in the first place.
In summing up Judge Gore considered the breaches to be so severe that a fine was insufficient and would not reflect the seriousness of the matter. He then went on to sentence Mr Cordwell to four months in prison, suspended for a period of two years, to reflect Mr Cordwell’s admission of one allegation, with an addition that should any further breach of the Court Order occur within the borough that this prison sentence would be acted upon.
An application made by Mr Cordwell’s barrister to vary the terms of the injunction was adjourned for further hearings and evidence.
Linda Fisher, deputy chief executive of Rochdale Borough Council, said: “This case has been ongoing for around three years and has taken up considerable planning department and legal services staff time and resources. During his judgement the Judge praised officers for their professionalism in presenting evidence during the proceedings and for the clarity of our case and I would like to say thank you to all the officers involved.
“The Council submitted a costs claim and the Judge also awarded that reasonable costs be reimbursed on this matter. This will be in the region of £14,300 to date.”
Applications to vary the current injunction and extensive directions will be heard at a further hearing to be set for the first available hearing date after 2 May 2014. Paragraph 3 of the injunction of 13 March 2013, which deals with the removal of the partially constructed dwelling from Collop Gate Farm, except where planning permission has been granted for the retention of all or any part, was stayed until the hearing of the application or until further order.
The Council’s barrister reserved the option to submit further evidence of any other unresolved planning breaches on other sites to those listed above.
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