Staffordshire man faces £200,000 enforcement bill for unauthorised green belt scrap yard

A Staffordshire man has been ordered to pay out over £200,000 for running an unauthorised scrap yard in the green belt following a long-running enforcement case, which included action taken under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

The illegally-built scrap yard (pic: South Staffordshire Council)
The illegally-built scrap yard (pic: South Staffordshire Council)

According to South Staffordshire Council, Andrew Taff built his scrap yard in the green belt at Four Crosses, Hatherton without planning consent.

The council said that, in November 2011, Taff was served with an enforcement notice by its planning enforcement team, which required him to clear the site and stop using it as a scrap yard and for storing vehicles, parts and skips.

After an unsuccessful appeal, he was given a further 12 months to comply with the notice but did not do so, the council said.

In July 2017, Taff pleaded guilty at Stafford Crown Court to three allegations of failing to comply with the enforcement notice. The council said Taff did then comply with the enforcement notice and cleared up the site and ceased operations.

But the council argued that Taff had benefited from his offending and last month he was ordered to pay £150,000 under the POCA.

The POCA allows the courts to issue confiscation orders for money generated from illegal activities and typically involves much greater penalties for those found guilty than if they had simply been prosecuted for breaching planning enforcement.

Additionally, Taff has now been fined £24,000 and ordered to pay court costs of £28,280 at Birmingham Crown Court for his initial failure to comply with the enforcement notice.

Roger Lees, the council’s cabinet member for regulatory services, said: "This case highlights the patient and diligent work of our legal team and enforcement officers.

"As a council, we will not hesitate to prosecute people who carry out unauthorised activities no matter how long it takes.

"POCA is designed to take the profit out of crime and I'm delighted that the seriousness of the offence has been recognised by the courts and that this successful prosecution will result in confiscated criminal assets benefiting the community instead and go towards buying more CCTV cameras to catch fly-tippers."

South Staffordshire Council said it will receive around £28,000 of the POCA confiscation order with the remaining monies split between the Home Office, the court and financial investigators at Birmingham City Council.

Last month, a north London council failed to overturn a crown court decision to block an enforcement action that the judge said had the "improper motive" of gaining "financial advantage" by means of the POCA.

A special Planning report on the lessons that can be drawn from how the Proceeds of Crime Act has been used to prosecute planning breaches can be found here.

A case study on how Leicester City Council planners used a POCA order in several enforcement cases can be found here. 

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